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Dollars & Sense

Top 10 ways to waste money on the road

By Rene Tankersley, Feature Editor
Posted Nov 10th 2002 3:00AM

Reprinted from the November 2002 edition of Land Line Magazine with the kind permission of the author and editor.

When you go home and give momma a check for $180 when she's expecting (and already written checks for) more like $400, do your explanations go over like a lead balloon?

Land Line's recent "survey" on top money-wasting road habits posted on the Members-Only Forum at OOIDA's web site ( was far from scientific, but it did hit paydirt. While the job of a truckdriver is a minefield of inherent time robbing diversions and money-wasting obligations, this article is directed at your personal practices.

In the interest of saving time, space and, of course, money, here are the top 10:

Driving habits

Speeding topped almost every member's list of money wasters. It amounts to "money out the stacks for fuel, excess tire wear, excess engine wear, excess stress on the driver," says Wisconsin member Steve Dietrich. "Speed will cost you more money than you can ever recoup."

Poor maintenance practices

While a breakdown is sometimes unavoidable, Pennsylvania member Ron Fulton says most breakdowns can be avoided by preventive maintenance and pre-trip inspections.

Florida member Paul Sasso adds: "Just maintaining adequate tire pressure can save a few percent in both fuel and tire wear over a year. This combined with other practices can affect the bottom line. The time it takes to stick the tires once a week is worth it in the long run.'

Administrative and transaction fees

Watch those ATM, fuel card, etc. fees! How many payroll advances do you take in one week's time? Do you know how much you're charged for each one? It could vary from a buck to $50 depending on your carrier's fee schedule.

Texas member Jeff Barker suggests: "If it's a dire emergency, a payroll advance may be justified, but I see too many drivers and owner-operators who take advances every week, only to whine and complain, thinking the company screwed them out of money come payday. There's transaction fees for this, they add up over time, and that in itself is a waste."

"This is one of the easiest ways to spend your money and have absolutely nothing to show for it," says Missouri member Dee Jones.

Video games

When you're bored witless, it's easy to dump a lot of quarters into pinball machines, video games and the like, says one member. Those quarters add up over time; at $2 per day, a year's worth of quarters could buy 500 gallons of fuel, or a year's worth of truck washes.

Unneeded truck accessories and other toys

If truck shows are your thing and you can afford it, driving a tricked out rig is great. But most truckers we talked to labeled extreme chrome, souped-up CBs and other bells and whistles as the wrong pot to put your money in.

"These are times that demand you get real and skip the excesses," said one trucker.

But mostly you have to ask yourself if "chroming out the pig you drive," as another member put it, will make you money.

Jeff Barker adds: "I'll admit, our truck has a little bit of the shiny stuff on it, but I use frequent-fueler points to get it. Chrome is not revenue producing, so I refuse to pay cash for it."

Paul Sasso's practical suggestion: Get a good truck wash. It will save money and impress shippers.

Impulse buying and truckstop shopping

Where'd that $40 go you had in your pocket? Oklahoma member Kenneth Becker says "trucker BS," like Bubba Teeth, that singing' bass and all the other novelties, can make it disappear faster than David Copperfield.

"If you are going to make money being a trucker," says one owner-operator's wife, "you must be able to walk through a big truckstop and not come out the other side with a booklet of horoscopes, a mood ring, a one-day packet of ginko biloba and a giant oatmeal cookie."

Many truckers cited truckstop shopping as a prime money-waster. Don't get carried away with truckstop shopping, says Sasso. You can buy just about anything there but at twice, sometimes three times the price you'll pay somewhere else. You pay dearly for the convenience.

Sasso's example: A gallon of oil cost him $6.50 at Wal-Mart versus $9.50 at the truckstop, and a graded 8-bolt for his alternator cost him $2.30 versus the truckstop price of $7 for an ungraded bolt painted green.

One trucker put it simply when he said, "Bottom line, we can make or break ourselves when it comes to how we spend our money and where."

Bad habits, vices

All the OOIDA members who contributed to this article mentioned either cigarettes, gambling or other "vices." Cigarette smoking was the biggie. Are you ready to spend five bucks a pack on smokes? A number of states now charge more than $1 in taxes per pack. New York is at $1.50, Rhode Island at $1.32, Washington, $1.42 1/2 and New Jersey, $1.50. More states are scheduled to increase their tax rates as well.

Eating on the road

When you eat out 24/7, you're at the mercy of somebody else's cooking. You need good food, lots of it and you need it quick, making fast food and all-you-can-eat buffets tailor-made for a trucker. Kenneth Becker says hitting the smorgasbords a couple times a day is not only a big waste, but eventually those poor eating habits can add up to costly medical bills.

Are you a snack addict? Do you eat $6 worth of coffee, snacks, soda, bottled water a day? Sounds cheap, but that's more than $2,000 a year.

Credit cards

Buy-now, pay-later credit card mantras sell a lot of merchandise, but they also get a lot of people in hot water with more debt than they can handle.

Plastic makes it just too easy. Before buying anything, ask yourself, "Can I afford it?" "Purchasing anything you can't afford can put you out of business," says Dee Jones.

Low introductory rates only last about six months, and then shoot up to 20 percent or higher. "No payment until next year" doesn't mean no interest or finance charges. As one member puts it: "Credit can be a lifesaver, but it's not free. Is anything?"

Getting lost

This was mentioned by several members and thus earns a mention here. With today's technology, you have access to a variety of trip-planning resources – maps, cell phones, trip-planning web sites and software.

Truckers agree that getting lost is a bona fide time robber. Getting lost is another time and money-waster, not to mention a major cause of stress. And get a phone number.

Editor's note: Although the elements of this article came from OOIDA members, the idea was inspired by a chapter from Jeff and Sheena Woltman's book, "Trucking Simplified." It's published by Boogaloo Press and available at, bookstores and truckstops. Jeff and Sheena, authors, owner-operators and Land Line readers, offer proven tactics, insightful tips and strategies for running a successful trucking operations.

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