April 13, 2010

A Berry Good Morning & Trucking 101: Fuel

Unloading this morning in Watsonville, CA after driving all night. We just arrived about an hour ago. I'm tired.

Its always so hard to drive through the night after we've spent several days dragging our feet. I like it when freight stays steadily running at the same pace. And it looks like it might this week. We're already rescheduled to load near Stockton and head up north of Seattle, another all night run.

Watsonville is just a few miles from the coast, south of San Jose. It is a really pretty area. We used to load produce around here all the time, mostly in Salinas (south of here) but we came to Watsonville for strawberries several times.

Growing up in the south, there were multiple towns with strawberry festivals and it seemed they all professed themselves to be the "strawberry capital of the world" or had some such title. Well, they may have been the "capital" of their region, but ladies and gentleman...this must truly be the berry capital of the world.
Step out of the truck and the air is just permeated with the aroma of sun ripened berries (except right now all I can smell is apples but that's just at this warehouse).
Fields and fields of berries. The strawberries are in the sunshine, while the raspberries and blackberries are under these canopies.
Last year we treated ourselves to a flat. A number of the packing houses sell the ripe berries at their facility, the ones that are too ripe to ship. They were some of the best I've ever tasted. We'll get some today if we can find a place where they are available before we leave.
Wow...now I'm really looking forward to breakfast!
Now for a little Trucking 101. I don't think I've discussed fuel in great detail, but if I have please forgive the repetition. Yankee Girl ~ Missy asked a good question in her comment on my fuel post yesterday. I should have thought to go into more detail about fuel capacity, and all that is involved there. So, Missy, thanks for the question. I sent you an email with an answer, and now I'm going to answer again on here so everyone can read about it.
After a little over three years of trucking, and 7 years being exposed to the trucking industry, I am still in awe of the whole fuel thing!
Fuel...what a powerful word. Fuel pretty much dictates every bit of what we do. It determines how fast we drive and at what RPM's we shift gears at...all in an effort to get the best fuel mileage. It effects whether or not we idle the truck when we are sitting still. If we're feeling poor, we'll suffer the heat or cold a lot more, in an effort to save fuel. The more it costs, the more we usually make ourselves bare discomfort.
Fuel even dictates when and where we shower! (bet you didn't see that one coming!) Most truck stops give drivers a "shower credit" with the purchase of a certain amount of fuel. So where ever we've recently fueled is where we have to shower. Trust me...if you spend that much on fuel and it comes with a free shower, your not going to go down the road and pay for a shower somewhere, even if it is only $9!
We have a carrying capacity of 300 gallons. Missy asked how much it costs to "fill up" but I can't really say, because we don't ever fill the tank in one stop. We never let our takes get drained, especially in winter because diesel fuel will "gel up" in extreme cold, especially if the fuel level is low. And just as we never let the tanks get empty, we hardly ever fill them up all the way. If you'll recall, in our line of trucking we make our money based on how much product we load. The more weight we can load, the more we make on that trip. So Malcolm estimates how much fuel it will take to get to where we are going, and still be able to load the maximum, and that's the amount of fuel we stick to that trip. Sometimes we only put in 50 gallons (the minimum for a free shower at most places) and rarely do we get more than 150 gallons in one "fill up."
I get an almost daily fuel update from OOIDA (the Owner Operator Independent Driver Association). Yesterday's update stated that fuel had jumped 5.4 cents to a national average of $3.069. It also had an average for each region. If your interested, here is a link to the article report.
So...our truck is actually doing really well, getting good fuel mileage. We average around 6.3 miles per gallon. We aim to drive between 4000 and 4500 miles a week. I'm no math expert. There was a reason I taught history and science, not math when I was teaching, lol! But I can do a little math and tell you that at 4000 miles a week, we're burning about 635 gallons a week. Multiply that by the national average (and we're paying more than that cause we're running on the expensive side of the country) and we're spending somewhere around$1950.00 a week in fuel.
That's ONE truck.
Today when you go run your errands, get on the interstate for a few minutes and just count the number of trucks that go by. Then do the math.
Shocking isn't it? Its mind boggling!


Yankee Girl ~ Missy said...

mmmm berrys can almost smell them!!!

Thanks for sharing more fuel info. You have a real cool job. I'd love to be able to travel and take pictures to blog. Oh yeah the paychecks would be nice too. Stay at home Mom's don't earn a lot of cash, but it is sure fun.

Jennifer said...

That is amazing! Next time I buy a bag of apples, I'm going to think about what percent of the cost just went for the fuel in the truck that brought it to my store.

small farm girl said...

Your right, that IS the berry capital of the world! That's a lot of money to spend on fuel. I didn't realize. WOW!

Willow Witch said...

you made me hungry for some strawberry shortcake!

Tiffany said...

I second the sudden desire for berries...and the added awareness of the fuel cost...not to put you out of business...but that's why I like to try and buy local...but, I envy you being able to buy local at a million different places!! :)

Meagan said...

LOL... this post reminded me of the day my class and I called you to ask questions about gas and trucking when we were studying economics! Always interesting and SHOCKING to know how much is spent in so little time on gas! :-)

That town looks adorable! LOVE the pictures - your pictures just get better and better even though I always think they couldn't get any better, lol! LOVE YOU!

kristy said...

Wow thats is really intry. I loved your pix. You have a cool job!