Vernon Milling training truck drivers to be more fuel-efficient amid record-high gas prices

VERNON, Ala. (WCBI) – The current gas crisis is having a dramatic effect on the trucking industry.

Vernon Milling Company in Lamar County says roughly 39 percent of their operating costs go to fuel as their drivers deliver to customers from Oklahoma to Pennsylvania.

“Usually I pick up down around Mobile, Alabama then I go to just north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,” says driver Brandon Miller. “It’s like 1,002 miles and then I come back here.”

In his nearly 10 years of driving trucks, Miller says he’s never seen anything like the current gas crisis.

“$5 for a gallon of fuel, because people need it to run a business and to live? It’s ridiculous,” he says.

According to AAA, the average price of diesel fuel in Alabama is $5.024 a gallon and $4.876 per gallon in Mississippi.

“Every time you pass by a gas station, you’re comparing the cost of fuel from one station to the next,” Vernon Milling’s Dallas Bozeman says. “Also, stop and make sure your tanks are full because the gas that you buy today is cheaper than what you’re going to buy tomorrow.”

When gas prices go up, those costs are passed on to VMC’s customers through a surcharge.

“We try to be as efficient as possible to where, whenever a driver unloads, we try to have another load for them to pick up in close proximity,” Bozeman says.

Each VMC truck holds a total of 200 gallons of gas in its two tanks. At the current price of diesel fuel, it costs just over $1,000 to fill them both up. Bozeman says they are constantly working with their drivers to be as fuel-efficient as possible.

“Adjusting speed limits, maybe going five miles an hour on average less than what they normally do,” Bozeman says. “(Reducing) the amount of time that their trucks are idling without actually moving product from one point to another.”

Bozeman says that depending on how fast fuel prices go up, there is a risk that their customer surcharges might not cover the cost of fuel during the six weeks it takes to recoup said costs.

“I’m using cruise control more now than I have probably more than ever,” Miller says.

Bozeman says their major focus right now is employing the best drivers possible. But there’s another problem: the nationwide shortage of truck drivers.

The ongoing shortage has the industry relying on veteran drivers like Miller more than ever.

“What choice do we have? We got to have trucks,” Miller says. “Everything that you eat, sleep on, drive, whatever has been on a truck at some point in time. America has no choice. America stops if we stop.”

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