It's no secret that the rising fuel cost has caused an intense strain on the trucking industry. With the national average of diesel being $5.71/gal and rising at the time of this post, the cost of everything has been deeply affected. Many carriers are left making deep cuts wherever they can while waiting for rates to catch up to rising costs.
One situation that often gets overlooked, and one of the largest costs of being overloaded, is how much fuel efficiency is affected by an overweight load. Sure, a heavier load burns more fuel, but it's really the decisions drivers have to make that cost the most.
When a driver finds out they are overloaded at the nearest off-site scale they have to make some costly decisions:
- Do I take the "scenic route" to avoid weigh stations?
- Do I go back to the shipper to get my load fixed?
- Do I drive past weigh stations and hope I don't get caught?
Choosing between adding miles and losing fuel efficiency or risking a fine only gets more difficult as fuel prices increase, so let's break down these choices.
Taking the "Scenic route"
When drivers make the decision to take back roads, side streets, or the scenic route they are making one of the most expensive decisions to deal with their overloaded situation. Taking these roads means that fuel efficiency will take a drastic hit.
A truck that is doing a 1,000-mile run will typically get around 8 mpg on the interstate. Back roads have more frequent stops for lights, winding roads, stop signs, and steep grades. The constant use of the brakes and accelerator can drive fuel efficiency down to as low as 5 mpg. On the same 1,000-mile run the additional cost of fuel needed to complete the job is $428.25
Back-tracking to shippers
When a driver discovers that they are overloaded the last thing they want to do is turn around to get cargo rearranged or removed. Many think that the wasted miles are not worth the hassle because "time is money". Nobody wants to waste the drive time to get the load fixed.
This decision is usually better in terms of cost because once the load is fixed, the driver can keep the benefits of better fuel economy on interstate routes. The downside, however, is the amount of time required to get the load fixed. Booking loads with some additional buffer time to account for any delays like load adjustment can help save a fortune in lost fuel economy.
Getting Fined or placed Out-of-Service
The easiest cost to associate with being overloaded is getting fined or placed Out-of-service. Depending on which state catches you can mean the difference between a couple hundred dollars to over $1,000 in fines and points on your CSA score.
Many states have been stepping up enforcement to compensate for lost revenue during the pandemic and supply chain shortages over the past couple years. This is leaving carriers between a rock and a hard place because they have to navigate enforcement and increasing fuel cost at the same time while trying to make a modest profit.