Rising fuel prices are plaguing the world in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. As you can imagine, that certainly affects our RV travels. The average diesel price today is $5.13 per gallon, according to AAA. That’s more than a $2 increase over last year’s average of $3.06.
Gulliver gets about 8 miles per gallon when pulling Tagalong. With a 32-gallon fuel tank, that comes out to an average $164 per fillup, compared to $100 last year. We never run the tank to empty, so we don’t pay that full price. Gulliver’s endurance on one tank is about three hours, and that gets us down to a quarter of a tank.
Savings in Numbers
Thankfully, we’re part of the TSD Logistics fleet, a tractor-trailer fleet that allows RVs to join through its Open Roads program. This enlarges the fleet overall and lowers the diesel cost for everyone involved. That gets us significant savings on fuel prices.
For example, a truck stop we visited in Texas had a published price of $5.31 per gallon. Thanks to our discount, we only paid $4.26. That said, the pump doesn’t show the discount, which can be a sticker shock. We realize the discount later.
Our TSD Logistics card is tied to our checking account, so our fuel purchases come out as bank drafts. The program doesn’t charge us the full amount we see on the pump and then apply the discount. Instead, it collects all the information about the transaction, subtracts the discount from the published price, and deducts that from our checking account.
Why Is Diesel More Expensive at Truck Stops?
Truck stops have a pretty exclusive market. Diesel cars and pickups can likely find diesel cheaper somewhere in town. But semi trucks and big RV rigs have a much harder time navigating to those places, if they can fit into the pump bays at all. Highway truck stops are designed for fueling many semis at a single time, with easy access in and out.
All truckers use fleet cards, so none of them pay that sticker price you see advertised on billboards. If we didn’t belong to a fleet, we would have no choice but to pay the inflated published price at the truck stops since our rig is as big as they are.
Many different fleets are in operation. TSD Logistics is only one of them, and it’s the only fleet that allows diesel-fueled RVs to participate. Discounts for our fleet apply to TA, Petro, and Love’s. We get our best prices at TA and Petro.
Benefits of Truck Stop Fueling
Our biggest perk to fueling at truck stops is peace of mind regarding height clearance and easy in-out access. The dimensions of our rig preclude us from fueling at gas stations in town because of lack of height clearance or inconvenient pump position.
For these reasons, some fifth-wheel RVers only get fuel when disconnected from their rig. Depending on the size of their tank, that may mean they have to stop frequently on a long journey so they can disconnect.
Another truck stop benefit for us is the ability to pay at the pump. This saves considerable time and hassle. In addition, truck stops offer diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) — a requirement for all modern diesel vehicles — at the pump.
We could buy DEF in 5-gallon containers like you see at The Home Depot and other places, but our DEF tank isn’t 5 gallons. So, we would end up carrying a half-full container of the smelly liquid with us — not to mention how messy it is to pour the liquid from the box into our DEF tank. Although our fleet discount doesn’t apply to DEF, we appreciate being able to get it at the pump.
In addition, truck stops offer extended-handle windshield squeegees for easier reach across tall, large vehicles. Many truck stops also have water — potable or not — and air compressors for tire inflation.
Navigating truck stops
Most truck stops have auto and RV pumps, as well as fuel pumps for semis. Our fleet discount doesn’t apply at the auto/RV pumps, so we have to go to the truck area.
Our first visit to a pump in this area of a truck stop met us with confusion. We didn’t know what to select on the digital screen at the pump. Tractor? Reefer? Both? We had no idea what that meant. Fortunately, a gracious trucker told us to select tractor, and we’ve been following that advice ever since.
The nozzles at the truck pumps are larger than those at the auto/RV pumps as they’re designed to deliver volumes of fuel at a high flow rate. Because the size of our fuel tank pales in comparison to the size of trucker tanks, we have to run the nozzles at the lowest speed to prevent spillage.
Along with every tank fillup over 10 gallons, we always include a fuel additive. Cummins, the manufacturer of Gulliver’s engine, recommends Diesel Kleen to keep the fuel injectors clean and the injection components lubricated — ultimately, improving fuel quality and engine performance.
Because we fuel at truck stops where professional truck drivers fill up, we do our best to give them priority. After all, they have schedules to keep and need to make good time. We have a lot more flexibility.
After replenishing Gulliver’s diesel and DEF tanks and giving Tagalong a walkaround, we move forward to get out of truckers’ way. We often park in that forward space, which it’s designed for, while we go inside the store at the truck stop to use the restroom and grab a coffee or snack. Then, we quickly return to our vehicle and get back on the road.
Truckers probably like to get in line behind a fifth wheel because the smaller fuel tank means a quicker fillup. Class A motorhomes, on the other hand, can take 100 to 150 gallons, making the length of a fillup about equal to that of a semi.
We like to keep a good relationship with truckers. We always feel good about a road where we see 18-wheelers because we know if they’re there, we have the height clearance we need. We want truckers to appreciate RVers as well, so little steps like giving them priority at truck stops can go a long way toward helping with that.
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This is the travel blog of full-time RVers Bob and Lana Gates and our truck, Gulliver, and fifth wheel, Tagalong.