truck driver money saving tips

5 truck driver money saving tips you can use today

When it comes to saving money you can never know too much. As a driver or company owner (or both) you’re getting hit from all sides for your cash, so we thought we’d provide you with some trucker driver money saving tips to give you a hand.

You know what the good thing is?

A couple of these tips you probably doing anyway and didn’t think of them as money saving tips. You’ll know’em when see’em!

Budgeting and saving money seems to be on most people’s minds these days, and specially for pro truck drivers trying to make a living.

I’m going to provide you my personal method to get a budget started if you don’t have one and a list

Prepare your own food

Preparing your own food will a couple of things for you right off the bat. First, it allows you to control how much you’re eating and second, what kinds of food you eat.

Eating out at just about every meal adds up quick. Let’s look at this math:

An average lunch is around $12 including tip. I’m being conservative here.

We will throw out one day out of the week to take the 34 hour restart into account. Even though you will be still eating on your time off.

That leaves us with 6 days out of the week. Simple multiplication 6 x 7= 42. So $42.00

Start multiplying that $42 times 30 days for a month (give or take) and now you’re up to $360.00!

tips for saving money

If you really want to carry this all the way, multiply that number times 12. For those that are curious, that number is $4320/year. See how this can sneak up on you?

That’s just one meal out of the day, obviously that number is higher if you’re eating in a restaurant multiple times a day over the same period of time. Then start multiplying that over a year’s period of time.

Preparing your own food in the ‘ol cab bistro can take a bit more planning and upfront cost to get the ball rolling. Here’s just a few of the items or food prep stuff you’ll need:

  • Some kind of small refrigerator, cooler or ice chest or a thermoelectric cooler to keep food cold. You want to have some way to keep food cold. Always beware of food safety!
  • Microwave oven. Believe it or not, there are a lot of good healthy food options and recipes that you can cook in a microwave.
  • 12 volt appliances such as a hot plate, crock pot, electric skillet, jet stream or other things to heat or cook your food
  • Along with the above appliances, you’ll want to get yourself a good power inverter.
  • Gas grill. You don’t always need this, but if you can get yourself a compact gas grill, go for it.
  • Eating utensils and dishes
  • Food and dish storage containers to keep everything secure and clean.
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Bottled water
  • Get some recipes! As I said above, there are a lot great recipes out there that will give plenty of good simple ideas, but can also get you started down the path to eating healthier.

It seems like that’s big list and a big cash outlay, but once you make the initial investment, it’ll pay you dividends down the road.

Also, don’t forget to check out different pieces of RV and other travel gear. There are differences, but there are also enough products that can cross over and make life a lot easier.

Making a Personal Budget

good ways to save money

I’m no financial guru but life has taught me some simple personal budget techniques that work well when things seem like their out of control. Going through a divorce forced me to get my finances under control whether I wanted to or not.

Nobody likes doing a budget because it seems like a horrible confusing task. It doesn’t have to be that way! The biggest problem that most folks have is getting organized.

Once you get yourself organized, you can get a much clearer picture of what’s going on in your financial world and take some simple steps to get it under control.

1. Don’t wait for a catastrophic event in your life

If you’re having money issues (and with this economy who isn’t) the time is NOW. Don’t wait for a catastrophic event like I did. Don’t be the ostrich with your head in the sand.

Fire insurance on your house is pointless and dumb after the fire has burned the house to the ground.

Start by pulling your head out of the sand (or any other part of you’re anatomy) and recognize that things are either out of control or close to it.

Take action!

2. Get organized, and chart a course

getting organized

get organized with your budget

I’m the kind of person who has a plan, then a backup plan, then a backup plan for the… you get the idea.

My girlfriend thinks I’m crazy because I even have a plan for the zombie apocalypse. Interestingly enough, did you know the Federal Government even has a zombie apocalypse plan? Hey, you just never know.

The first thing that I did to get personal finances under control was create a spread sheet on my personal computer. I’m going to assume that as a road warrior, you may not have a laptop or pc and that’s ok.

If you don’t have access to a laptop and just have your cell phone (just about everyone does) and still want to use a spread sheet there is one great free option.

If you don’t have a google email account, get one. If you use an android based phone, you more than likely already have a gmail account.

If you’re an iphone user, you can get yourself a gmail account and set it up in your phone and still use this spreadsheet plan it works the same. The key to this is to have a gmail account to access google products.

google gmail

You can use your email account to register for a google documents account and create a spreadsheet.

Don’t want to create a spread sheet, don’t have the time or skill?

Google has that covered, because they already have a monthly budget spread sheet that you can plug your own categories and numbers into.

After you’re done, you just you save it to your google drive account (also free to create with your gmail address) and store it online for access wherever you go, no pc needed you should be able to do this all from a smart phone.

In fact, you’ll be able to save it directly to your Google drive account from Google Docs without having to leave Google Docs.

How cool is that?

Here’s what it all looks like:

personal spreadsheet

You have the option to create a spreadsheet from scratch or use one of Goolge's

Is the spread sheet the end all be all? No, there’s other ways to track your finances, like software and apps.

I have found however, that a spreadsheet is by far the best way to watch how your money comes and goes and they really don’t have to be complicated to be effective.

As you saw the Google spreadsheet pretty. Here’s my design that’s not pretty:

bi weekly spreadsheet

I get paid every two weeks, so I break my bills down by each check. The “Bill pay” box tracks money in my Bill pay account. See point #3 why I do this.

You can see it’s really not that complicated, and allows me to track my costs from my first paycheck of the month and my second paycheck.

This can all be created during you’re down time in a matter of minutes right on your phone!

If you’re really not a spreadsheet person just find an app that works for you that you can track expenses with.

Personal budget manager apps

There are a lot of great free apps out there to track your budget on if the spreadsheet idea is not for you. Here’s a list for both the iPhone and Android platforms.

phone apps

I’m only going to list apps that are free, however these apps may have in app purchases so keep that in mind.

iPhone

Mint; Created by the people who also make TurboTax, Quickbooks computer software. It seems to be quite popular.

Goodbudget expense tracking

Fudget, personal finance

Android

Mint; Same as the app I mentioned above, this is Android version of it.

Expense Manager

Concur; Tracks business and travel expenses

The worst case scenario, go completely low tech with a pencil and paper.

The point is, is that you want to start tracking what your making vs what you are spending which gives you a global view of what’s going on. You can then use this information to review against your check book or online bank account.

It’s worth mentioning here to NEVER use public wifi to log into any personal accounts. You are just asking to have your account wiped out and your identity stolen.

3. Separate bank accounts for different spending

Most folks have the typical checking and savings accounts which works for their household.

how can I save money

I have a crazy fear (or is it paranoia? I can’t tell I think too many people are watching me right now) that I will not pay attention and overdraw my account doing other things and then not be able to pay my bills. I hate owing people money.

My personal method

I have a checking and savings account just like I just mentioned above, but my bank gave me the option to have up to two more checking accounts for free.

So now I have 1 savings account and 3 checking accounts – flippin’ sweet!

I can transfer money ‘till my heart’s content and it doesn’t cost me anything extra.

Here’s how I use them:

Checking #1

I have direct deposit, so this is where my check goes. Left over money here that hasn’t been transferred to checking #2 for bills or earmarked for something else I get to spend. Yea!

Checking #2

This is my paying bills checking account. All money for bills I have to pay is transferred from checking #1 to this account. I then pay my bills from this account only.

I then set as many bills that can pay online to my checking #2 account.

If there is a bill I can’t pay online directly to the biller I set up automatic payments through my bank. For my bank, I have to take into account that they are snail mailing a physical check and it takes a few days.

The good thing is, I only have one bill to do this for, but at least it’s online and I can track it from anywhere.

If I have any bills that for whatever reason can’t be paid online (I do everything I can do to pay bills online) then I’ll use a money order. Of course the money order is funded from money that I set aside in checking #2.

Checking #3

This is my fun money or vacation account. Left over money that I didn’t use to pay bills with that I want to save to take a trip on my motorcycle or go to the beach (or whatever) goes here.

Savings account – exactly that. Put money in it I want to save and don’t touch it.

I know this all sounds a little hard to set up and keep track of, but it’s really not. Once you have it up and running it’s a breeze, because everything has a purpose and you know where it is.

I found that once I compartmentalized my finances like this and added the spreadsheet to it, I knew exactly where money was going and what is was for and a lot of my stress went away.

This method isn’t anything new and I’m not trying to portray this as my big discovery. This generally the way a lot of government agencies manage large budgets, I just stole the idea from them.

Again, I’m no big money wizard but this is the method that worked for me when my financial world caved in and I had to get serious about money.

Avoid Getting Tickets

One of the themes that run all through this site is saving time and money through general compliance with the rules.

avoid getting a ticket

In many states drivers are fined or ticketed for everything an inspector or officer finds wrong with the vehicle. Not everyone works like California where they have “Owners Responsibility” paperwork to give the driver so that he can pass it on to the inspector to get out of a ticket.

Whenever possible with companies and drivers (mostly with drivers, that’s who I come into contact with the most) I recommend that there is a clear line between what the company will pay for and what the driver will pay for.

Here’s a short list of items that are within the drivers control:

1. Logbook violations.

Elogs are no savior, know the rules. Elogs just make the violations easier to spot, don’t falsify your log.

2. Overweight fines.

Know the basic axle weight rules (34,000lbs is the federal standard for tandem axles), some states vary. Be aware of how the vehicle is being or was loaded, because it can affect your axle weights.

Understand the bridge weight rule and how the number of axles and truck length affect weight. Just like we tell our new guys “You can’t weigh a truck without a tape measure kid”.

If you don’t understand how the bridge weight rule works, contact your state commercial vehicle enforcement agency or ask your company. Probably best to do both.

You will always run into weird situations where axle weight is concerned. When in doubt, always check with your company and know what fines they will pay vs what fines you will pay.

3. Check all of your permits.

Drivers have to keep the equivalent of several hundred acres of Amazon rainforest with them at any given time. I mean paper for those that didn’t get it. J

If you have the potential for hauling hazardous materials, you will have a lot more rules and regulations to deal with. More than likely need at least two permits when hauling hazmat.

I recommend that drivers go through their permit book at least once a quarter to catch any kind of permit that has expired or is on the verge of expiring.

Did someone use the truck before you or are you getting a truck after someone else?

Check the permit book!

Your buddy may be a great guy, but he’s not looking out for you.

When picking up a vehicle or taking one over, go through your permit book and check everything you’re going to need for the trip, even hazmat permits. Things change on a dime, you may need them.

In my experience, if a driver received a fine or ticket for a violation that’s permit/paper related, they are going to pay it themselves, the company will not pay for it.

4. Know the CVSA out service criteria

Having a good understanding of what violations will get you placed out of service (whether it’s you or your truck) can help you avoid a lot of expensive fines.

Many times (but not all) officers will write tickets only for out of service violations. The problems is, is that once this is done the fine itself will be WAY more expensive that it otherwise would have been. At least double the cost in most cases.

In jurisdictions that I’ve worked, out of service tickets started at $500 and went up, hazmat violations were close to $1000.00.

Those kind of numbers can really eat into your bottom line.

Pre trip inspection and preventive maintenance

One good place to start saving money with your maintenance is to conduct good pre trip inspections. Doing good pre trips can do a couple things for you by giving you a heads up on what’s going on with the truck.

Tires are one example.

Remember the movie Jaws? Of course you do.

There’s a line in the movie where someone says “…And you’re going to ignore this particular problem until it swims up and bites you in the ass”.

We will use tires as a quick example of that.

When you’re doing a pre trip, make sure that you really are taking a close look at not just the tread depth (2/32” of an inch is a violation for non steering axle tires) but what condition they’re in.

Make sure you don’t have big chunks gone out of the tread with cord showing or that the cap is starting to separate from the tire.

Tires generate a lot of heat through road friction, and when the pavement is hot in addition to the heat from rolling friction – You’re setting yourself up to spend some quality time either roadside waiting for a service truck, or placed out of service by an inspector because that tire will be coming apart sooner rather than later.

In either case, you are losing time and money.

In the case of being placed out of service by DOT, you’re not only losing time and money to have the vehicle repaired, but the potential cost of having a ticket and court fees on top of that.

Doing a solid pre trip gives you heads up on potential problems that you can plan for.

I would also recommend once in a while going under your truck every once in a while and take a look at what’s going on down there just like DOT does.

If you opt to do this and have never done it before, I would suggest having a partner with you to assist you with safety. Make sure you follow safety guidelines from your company. If you don’t know ask, the bottom line is get some help so you can stay safe.

You can also ask your mechanic what they look for while they are underneath your truck. The downside to this suggestion is that they may not be forthcoming about their information for fear of releasing some super duper million dollar trade secret.

If you keep your questions general such as “Can you show me all the fluids I need to check” or “Where are the lube points located” and not too specific about a procedure, you may get some answers.

However, be prepared to have someone pull the wool over your eyes. They still may not tell you much out of fear of losing business. When all else fails, slip them some cash for a tip or contact the manufacturer of your truck.

A free way to get some maintenance tips is of course a DOT inspection. You can either volunteer for one or just pay attention the next time you receive an inspection.

I know it seems crazy to volunteer, but many drivers do just that.

If you receive an inspection, make a point to speak with inspector either as the inspection is being done (not always practical), or when the inspection is complete.

Unless they are a complete jerk (which is possible, I get it) they will be happy to share information about your truck and what they look for. After all it’s about safety.

Knowing what an inspector looks for does a couple of things for you:

1. You know what inspectors are looking for

2. You know about major components under your truck (brake linings, brake pods/cans) that may need work.

All in all, taking a DIY approach to maintenance and learning to do simple things like changing your own oil, changing your fluids, filter changes and lubrication can add money to your pocket. In some cases, drivers have commented that it’s added up to $1000 per year just in fuel efficiency saving alone.

Let me touch on the oil change issue for moment.

Changing your own oil can be a pain because of the 100,000 gallons of oil a truck has. Yes I know, I’m being a drama king here.

If you plan ahead and find a local disposal facility, that will take care of the #1 issue. Next, you’ll want to have a large enough container (or containers) to put the oil in and a spill kit.

Used oil is not considered a hazardous material, so you don’t need anything special to transport it for disposal other than good containment for any environmental concerns.

Other maintenance tasks that you learn that could help save money are:

Clean you own truck (outside and inside)

Replace your own mud flaps

Hose repair – Be careful with this one. If done improperly you can be placed out of service. I would recommend hose replacement over repair.

Replace and/or aim your headlights

Brake adjustments

Replace your truck’s brake linings

Aero dynamic or Air fairings for your trailer

Tire replacement and re-balancing

Pick your battles

That’s a pretty hefty list to be sure. Overall, you want to take a look at a task and determine what your time is worth. Calculate what the cost of the task is that you want to perform and the cost of having it done for you.

In other words cost of DIY repair vs professional help.

Make sure you understand all of the costs involved in the task you’re going to perform and include the cost of screwing it up.

Avoid accidents

Avoiding accidents is what it’s all about right? Everyone thinks about, and is concerned with avoiding major accidents. That’s a no brainer.

Often, it’s the little things that can cause the most headaches. There is an old saying “Mosquitoes drink more blood than lions”. Wish I could remember who said that, a lot of truth there.

Here’s a short list of simple accidents to avoid:

1. Backing accidents

G.O.A.L – Get out and look. I see this on a lot of trucks more and more, and I’ve adopted it myself in my personal life because it works.

Simple backing accidents are frequent occurrences that can be avoided if you take just a bit of time to get out and look around your immediate area before you throw your vehicle in reverse.

A lot of folks are making investments in backing cameras to give them a hand with this. I may just get one for my aging pickup.

2. Watch you following distance

As simple as it is, make sure you allow yourself plenty of distance. It happens to everyone – your gaze into la la land for a second and then BOOM.

Make sure you always maintain a safe “cushion” of space around your vehicle at all time. Left, right and top.

Be familiar with how far it takes at various speeds to stop your vehicle when its empty and when it’s loaded. Speed and weight affect how quickly a truck can stop safety.

3. Know the height of your vehicle

You should have a good idea of how tall your truck is versus many overpasses and bridges. As I mentioned above, know your height space cushion.

4. Watch railroad crossings

Nobody wins when they head butt a train. Don’t attempt to beat the train, you will lose. Nuff said.

5. Distracted driving

Whether you drive a big truck or your personal car, cell phone use and eating while driving are two of the biggest driver distractions out there today.

You may think that you have a special gift that you multi task ‘til the cows come home, but some studies have shown that engaging in multi tasking can actualy lower your intelligence level.

Pull over and eat food and if you need to talk on the phone, get yourself a nice Bluetooth hands free device to keep you out of trouble.

6. Deer, cow or other animal collisions

I’m going to tread lightly with any advice here as far as specific driving tactics, and stick some simple common sense things to be aware of. Here's a short list:

  • Pay attention to road signs that indicate animal crossings
  • If your familiar with the stretch of highway take not of where the most likely spots for animals to cross would be.
  • Animals, specifically deer are going to be on the move most during mating season. Deer for example, start their mating season in the fall around October. Try to be familiar with the animals you may encounter along your route and plan accordingly.
  • Don’t overdrive your headlights during night time driving. 
  • No sudden turning movements or swerve. I have personally seen people kill themselves or injure others when they swerved their vehicle to avoid an animal.

This is where the purchase of a massive grill guard might be a good idea, they’re starting to be more common.

So there you have it.

5 ways how to save money every month. As we saw with just the food issue alone, that can rack up serious savings in and of itself.

5 truck driver money saving tips you can use today
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About the Author Earl

I've been in law enforcement and teaching DOT stuff to inspectors, drivers and companies for over 20 years. When I'm not doing that, I hit the road and travel on my Goldwing.