Whether you have just begun a rewarding career as a CDL professional or you’re an experienced freight hauler, it’s never too early to learn how to save money as a truck driver.
Right now, the truck driving money is good. The surging economy and driver shortage have wages on the rise. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t find ways to save money as a trucker. The day will come when you want to leverage your financial resources to buy a house or take a dream vacation.
Following these budgeting tips for truck drivers are sure ways to help save you money.
Getting Started: Budgeting 101
Create a Reduced Spending Budget
It seems like common sense to create a truck driving budget to help manage spending. But, at the same time, not many professional CDL drivers actually craft one. The prevailing thinking is that truckers face different regional pricing for things such as food and fuel. In too many cases, money gets unnecessarily squandered on fast food and road coffee.
Budgeting is all about amount earned minus amount spent, so if you don’t know where your money’s going, you are already behind.
Take a long look at weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly spending. Identify the areas that tend to be wasteful spending and come up with a plan to cut corners. Healthier grocery shopping is not only less expensive, but it can also be a time-saver as well. A thermos of coffee also saves money and time. You may be pleasantly surprised with the savings after tallying up your expenses for just a single month.
Get the Most out of Truck Stops
Experienced truckers are fully aware that fuel prices vary by region and company. Planning a route to maximize the benefit of low-cost diesel remains an essential money-saving strategy. But inexpensive fuel isn’t the only benefit of trucker-friendly facilities.
When you stop to refuel, consider taking advantage of other low-cost and free amenities. Refill your water bottles rather than purchase new ones. Get on the station’s free WiFi to manage online bill payment or respond to emails and social media messages. Truck stop coffee can be pretty good and very cheap. Fill up your thermos. Some of the elaborate facilities even offer showers and laundry. Truckers are required to take breaks. Put that time to work and save money.
Ask About CDL discounts
Businesses offer reduced prices to groups for two fundamental reasons. First, they want your ongoing patronage. Second, it’s a way to say “thank you for your service” to veterans and first responders among others. In some ways, CDL discounts are a little of both. Truckers are part of the lifeblood of the country, delivering essential goods and materials. Without truck drivers, there would be a lot less food in supermarkets.
That being said, check for CDL discounts at hotels and restaurants and other businesses along your route. It’s relatively common for insurance companies to offer reduced rates. A Google search for “CDL discounts” may also uncover coupons specifically for professional drivers.
Don’t Get a Ticket
This may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s not unusual for a driver to feel rushed and push the pedal down. Speeding, other tickets, and preventable accidents can be astronomically expensive for truckers. The initial cost will be the hefty fine you will have to pay. After that, drivers may accumulate negative points against their CDL and, of course, your insurance is likely to increase. Being a little tardy is a lot less expensive than paying a fine out-of-pocket, increased monthly insurance premiums, and risking the loss of your CDL.
Preventative Maintenance Avoids Breakdowns
One of the tried-and-true ways to save money as a trucker is to keep your rig in tip-top shape. That’s a lesson that drivers sometimes learn after an expensive roadside breakdown. The cost of having a mechanic come out to get you up and running can be painful. Worse, a tow to a garage that works on trucks on top of the mechanic’s regular work is only slightly less excruciating than the lost wages. Talk about a double-whammy.
Keeping routine maintenance appointments is essential to minimizing unnecessary breakdowns and their associated costs. Beyond consistent maintenance, many experienced drivers run through a safety checklist before leaving the yard. If something seems out of whack, the time to deal with such issues is before you hit the interstate.
Switch to Lump Sum Payments
One of the common strategies that truck drivers employ is to set up automatic bill payments. Being on the road for days or weeks at a time too often leads to missed due dates. That, in turn, means late fees and dings to your credit score. Although this remains a smart bill-paying method, drivers could also be saving money.
By switching your monthly auto-payments to annual lump sums, numerous companies offer discounts. This generally holds true with things such as auto and home insurance, as well as subscriptions such as Sirius radio among others. Many of these companies are open to setting up convenient annual automatic payments. The only difference may be more money in your wallet.
Sign Up for Credit Card Rewards Programs
The credit industry turns a profit on everyday people paying interest on balances. They even offer rewards as an enticement for you to apply for their card. But they did not bank on truck drivers taking full advantage of rewards programs and paying that card off in full each month.
CDL holders can maximize their benefits with cards that offer gas rewards and even cash back. After all, who purchases more fuel than a trucker? No one. A savvy trucker can use cards with high rewards but the key is to always pay the balance off in full at the end of each month. One misstep and your benefits earned are likely lost in full to the interest you will pay. All you have to do is connect via WiFi on your phone or device and transfer the funds. And, don’t feel bad that the credit card industry is losing money on your intererst. They’ll undoubtedly make a profit on millions of other Americans.
Take Steps to Remain Fit and Healthy
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), long-haul truckers are twice as likely to be obese than people in other occupations. Contributing factors include the mostly sedentary nature of driving, failure to exercise, and poor nutritional choices. The following conditions may accompany the negative impact of obesity.
- Heart disease
- Elevated cholesterol
- Sleep apnea
The CDC also noted that truckers are twice as likely to be smokers, and female truckers were three times more likely to smoke than women in other professions. If you are wondering what this issue has to do with how to save money as a truck driver, the answer is health insurance. Poor health and increased medical care results in higher rates and co-pays.
Healthy eating, calorie counting, and daily exercise are imperative to good health. It may be wise to set walking goals and other forms of exercise during off-duty hours. Nothing is more costly than diminished health and well-being.
Budgeting is a Process
As a truck driver, you live a life that is often full of surprises, but you can smooth the ups and downs and maintain financial stability by working within a budget. It may seem boring, and you may think it will handcuff your spending, but remember that you should include fun and entertainment too.
In the end, creating a budget and sticking to the plan can help you be a happier, wealthier truck driver. There has never been a better time to get into the trucking industry and these budgeting suggestions can help drivers retain more of their hard-earned salaries.