Truckers and mathematics – there is a much closer relationship between the two than you may think. Truck drivers use math daily in many ways. This isn’t a requirement that should cause panic, though, for the needed math skills are mostly simple adding and subtracting, estimating, and basic mental math.
Truck drivers have many responsibilities other than the actual driving of the truck, and some of these include having a least a basic knowledge of numbers. Below we will cover some of the most common examples of the types of math that will be involved while you are out on the road.
Most examples of when math would be required for a trucker is centered around maintaining your travel records. This can come in the form of maintaining your daily truck log as well as ensuring your fuel and mileage logs are accurate.
Though the increased use of GPS has reduced the need, the ability to compare routes to the same destination for fuel and time efficiency is always a plus.
There is also an expectation by the company for drivers to conserve resources. Documenting quantities of products loaded and unloaded and taking new orders for materials may be part of a truck driver’s job.
My goal is that once you complete this article, you will feel confident that you can handle the day to day mathematical requirements involved for a trucker. Please keep in mind that you are not expected to do this math in your head. Pick up a cheap calculator and keep in the truck. It’s will save you time and frustrations!
Electronic Daily Logs
As of December, 2017, truck drivers are required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to use an electronic logging device (ELD). Though it varies by brand, the new electronic logs have eliminated much of the manual calculations that were required for truck drivers in the past.
Throughout the trucker’s day, an ELD typically records such data as date, time, miles traveled, actual engine hours, and location information. More precise ELDs can also document information like air pressure and fuel efficiency.
Obviously, the good news is the required-by-law ELDs eliminate much of the previously-needed math for daily and fuel logs for many truck drivers. The tedious dedication to the number details for logs has been tremendously simplified by modern technology.
But, not all truckers are required to use ELDs, In general this rather new regulation does not apply to truckers doing only short-hauls and for several other types of trucking situations. For these truckers, logs or records of duty status (RODS) are still required, and these truck drivers will have to use math daily to complete these logs.
Paper Daily Logs
Short-haul drivers and drivers in a select few other situations, such as those driving a 2000 or older model truck, are still permitted to file their data the old-fashioned way, on paper. These truckers keep daily records of such information as hours on duty when not driving, hours driving, hours sleeping (usually called sleeper berth hours), and hours off duty.
Each day the hours are tallied and must equal 24 hours. The driver must keep these logs in the truck for a certain number of days. On average, the expectation is that the truck has a week’s worth of accurate and complete filled logs in their truck at any given time. The number of prior day logs that need to be kept in your truck may vary from state to state or from employer to employer. At any given time, these logs may be required at road-side inspections or if there is an accident.
Practice 1 – Addition and Time
- Your day began at 8:15 am.
- You drove for a total of 7.5 hours.
- You took a 30-minute lunch.
- You waited 45 minutes for truck to be loaded.
- It took you 30 minutes to fill out your log at the end of the day.
Question – At what time, did your day end?
Fuel and Taxes
The paper logs also play a significant role outside of the federal requirements. Paper logs are also used to calculate the taxes that are due to each state based on fuel consumption. Therefore, if you don’t have an electronic log, you will need to be able to calculate the travel distance between your starting an end points. Should those two destinations be in different states, you’ll need to break the mileage out by total miles driven in each state.
Depending on the company you work for, the trucker may also be responsible for fuel tallies. If this is the case for you, you’ll need to keep up with your fuel receipts and submit expense reports to ensure the company reimburses these expenses properly and in a timely manner.
Obviously, these are essential parts of the truck driver’s day. The paperwork is a requirement of all trucking companies, and the more diligently the driver keeps these details, the happier the boss will be. Simple math skills, helped with the use of a calculator, make the chore much easier.
Practice 2 – Problem Solving
Your day started with picking up a load in Lexington, Kentucky. You need to deliver it to Atlanta, Georgia. You work for a small trucking company that only has a handful of trucks on the road. Since you are the newest driver in their fleet, you are given a 1998 model truck to make the trip, which means you don’t have electronic log capabilities.
Originally, dispatch said your best route would be to take I-75 south thru Knoxville, however just as you are about to leave with your load, you find out the interstate is closed, and you will need to go thru Nashville. Your GPS shows it is 459 miles to Atlanta.
The distance from Lexington to the Tennessee state line is 175 miles.
The distance from Lexington to the Georgia state line (through Nashville) is 350 miles.
How many miles will you have traveled in each state once you reach your destination?
Kentucky miles driven:
Tennessee miles driven:
Georgia miles driven:
Maps have been an integral part of the lives of travelers for thousands of years, and this math skill is still important for truck drivers today. Truckers are always expected to choose the most efficient routes to their destinations. Using maps is one of the most productive ways to achieve this goal.
Knowing how to read a map is important. Seeing the journey on paper or on an electronic device helps the driver visualize the entire route more easily.
Maps on electronic devices especially are excellent resources for knowing distances and expected times of arrival. Making the comparisons ahead of time will lead to more direct paths
For drivers that are not comfortable with technology, paper maps are another option, and many people find them to be more trustworthy. With a few mathematical calculations, scale measurements on traditional maps can be converted to actual miles. It’s also much easier to see the whole journey on a paper map, which is comforting to some drivers.
Whether using satellite tracking devices or an old-fashioned map, carefully comparing the possible routes will lead to being a more productive driver. Driving efficiency is always a desired trait in drivers, and map skills will certainly increase this capability.
One expectation of truck drivers is to conserve resources. Primarily, this means fuel conservation. It also applies to not abusing tire tread, oil, and other fluids, such as antifreeze, power steering fluid, and fuel additives.
The rate of speed is one of the main factors in fuel consumption. Monitoring the speed of the truck allows the driver to determine the best driving patterns in terms of rate of travel. In other words, knowing when to speed up and when to slow down, the driver can conserve fuel.
The “when” is gained through subconscious mathematical thinking and common sense. There is no point in having a burst of speed, translated more fuel usage, when the truck will have to slow down just ahead. Estimating the upcoming distance to the stopping point allows the driver to decrease speed gradually, saving fuel. Once again, math is hidden but present in estimating distance.
Of course, the previously mentioned map skills are also being used here. If a route can be planned that travels through wide-open highways opposed to going through a congested area with lots of stops and start-ups, then both time and fuel will be conserved.
Tires are what make a trucker’s life go round, and preserving the tires is as important as breathing to a truck driver. A key component to the life span of a tire is the maintenance of a healthy tire pressure.
The needed tire pressure is affected by several factors, such as the brand of tire, outside temperature, and payload. An efficient driver knows his or her truck, so this too will be common sense to a trucker.
This involves math, though. Reading a tire gauge requires a knowledge of numbers, obviously, but this is an application of elementary skills learned long ago. Knowing the road ahead affects how much air needs to be added or let out.
The oil flowing through all the moving mechanical parts is an integral part of the life force of a truck. Yet, if this oil flow doesn’t happen, then the life of the truck will be over. Monitoring the temperature gauge is the way to ensure that all is well in the guts of the moving pieces.
Changing the oil then is extremely important. Dirty oil leads to a less efficient running of the truck. The sign for changing the oil is the mileage, usually done every 5,000 miles or so, taking into account the type of truck and the types of roads being traveled. Again, this is a simple math observation, but without giving diligence to this detail, the truck will soon be a helpless carcass on the side of the road somewhere.
Similarly, there are other fluids within the truck that must be carefully maintained, usually based on the miles traveled and weather conditions. These features include antifreeze, power steering fluid, transmission fluid, and fuel additives. All of these have individual purposes, which together greatly affect the health and efficiency of the truck.
This knowledge is gained with experience. While for many this will involve a subconscious, mental math, it is math all the same. Monitoring, documenting (even if just mentally), and acting upon the observations are all mathematical processes that will lead to more efficient driving and that will influence the overall longevity of the truck.
MPH & MPG Calculations Explained
A couple of calculations that you will probably do quite often is calculating miles per hour and miles per gallon. This math isn’t that bad as long as you keep your numbers organized. Here’s an example.
Miles per hour is calculated by simply diving the distance traveled by the number of hours. For example, let’s say that you travel 300 miles over a course of 6 hours.
To calculate your miles per hour; you would divide 300 by 6 which comes out to an average of 50 miles per hour.
The same calculation holds true for figuring out your fuel efficiency. To get your miles per gallon, you simply divide the miles traveled by the number of gallons consumed.
Let say between fill ups, you consumed 143 gallons of fuel and traveled 676.8 miles. To calculate your miles per gallon between fill ups, you would divide the mileage (676.84 mile) by the number of gallons consumed (143 gallons).
Therefore, in this example, you MPG would be 4.73.
- You’ve just traveled from Seattle, WA to Eugene, OR. Total miles traveled came out to 283 miles. You check the time and see that you were on the road for 4 hours and 45 minutes. What was your average miles per hour for your trip?
- You filled up before you left Seattle. After you drop off your load in Eugene you go ahead and fill up again. The gas pump says it took 65 gallons to top off your take. What was your average miles per gallon for your trip?
Cargo Delivery and New Orders
A more complex bit of mathematics is required if the driver must document the cargo leaving the home port and the cargo that is delivered at the destination. Depending on what the payload is, this can comprise a lot of calculations.
Furthermore, some trucking companies have the drivers bring back either new orders or another load of products. These return loads must be verified and documented. This is mathematics in action!
Practice 4 – Volume
There are times when it is important for a driver to know how much space is available in their truck. For instance, suppose you are in upstate California and need to make 3 separate pickups before delivering everything to the final destination in San Diego.
You tried to reach out to the shipper to get the size of the pallets before leaving, but they never returned your calls. Therefore, you won’t know the number of pallets you can pick up at the last location until after the second stop.
You know that your trailer is 53 feet long, 8 feet 6 inches wide and 9 feet tall. However, you also know that you normally aren’t filled perfectly with product. Therefore, to estimate the volume of your truck, you are going to calculate based on the following reduced dimensions of actual space – 52 feet long, 8 feet wide and 8 feet 6 inches tall.
To get the volume of your trailer, you will need the following formula: Length times Width times Height (LxWxH).
Therefore, your estimated available volume is: 52 ft x 8 ft x 8.5 ft which equals 3,536 square cubic feet of space. That means, if you were shipping boxes that 1 foot by 1 foot by 1 foot, you would be able to fit 3,536 boxes in your trailer.
Once you stop at your first and second stops, you find out that the product they have loaded you with are the following dimensions.
Pickup #1 – They had 18 pallets that measured 4ft x 4 ft x 4 ft.
Pickup #2 – They had 26 pallets that measured 3ft x 4 ft x 4 ft.
With this information, how much volume of your truck is taken up with the current load, and how much is available for your final stop?
BONUS PROBLEM – After you leave the second pickup, the last destination calls to tell you that you are picking up the same product as Pickup #1 and it’s packaged with the exact same dimensions. What is the most number of pallets that you can pick up at the last destination assuming your truck is loaded perfectly to maximize space?
Practice 1 – Addition and Time
Answer: Your day would end at 5:30pm
Here’s how we calculate it.
Your starting point is obviously 8:15am.
Since you waited 45 minutes to get your truck loaded, that wasn’t completed until 9 am.
Now, you drove for 7.5 hours and had a 30 minute (or .5 hour) lunch. These two tasks add up to 8 hours.
Let’s add 8 hours to 9am, which takes us to 5pm. Add another 30 minutes to fill out your logs and you are now at the end of your shift of 5:30pm.
Practice 2 – Problem Solving
How many miles will you have traveled in each state once you reach your destination?
Kentucky miles driven: 175 miles
Tennessee miles driven: 188 miles
Georgia miles driven: 96 miles
Kentucky Miles – This it he easiest of the calculations, because the information given in the original problem said that the distance from Lexington to the Tennessee state line was 175 miles.
Tennessee Miles – The original data stated that the distance from Lexington to the Georgia state line was 363 miles. Therefore, you can subtract the 363 from the 175 miles which was the distance from Lexington to TN. 363 minus 175 gives you 188 miles.
Georgia Miles – Since the total miles of your trip is 459 miles and you know it’s 363 miles from Lexington to the Georgia line, you can subtract 363 from 459. This will give you the total miles driven in Georgia. 459 minus 363 is 96 miles.
To double check your math, simply add up the amount of miles from each state. The total should get you back to the original 459 mile trip. 175 + 188 + 96 = 459.
Part 1 – You’ve just traveled from Seattle, WA to Eugene, OR. Total miles traveled came out to 283 miles. You check the time and see that you were on the road for 4 hours and 45 minutes. What was your average miles per hour for your trip?
The first step is to convert the time to a decimal number. 45 minutes divided by 60 minutes becomes .75 hours. Therefore, you total time traveled was 4.75 hours.
Next, you will want to divide the miles traveled by the it took to travel. Therefore, you will do the following: 283 miles dived by 4.75. This comes out to 59.57 miles per hour.
Part 2 – You filled up before you left Seattle. After you drop off your load in Eugene you go ahead and fill up again. The gas pump says it took 65 gallons to top off your take. What was your average miles per gallon for your trip?
Your mile per gallon calculation is very similar. In this case, you are going to take the number of miles traveled and divide it by the number of gallons of diesel consumed.
Therefore, your calculation will be 283 miles divided by 65 gallons. Your miles per gallon is 4.35.
Practice 4 – Volume
Pick up #1 – The total amount of volume taken up by these pallets are calculated by multiplying the size of the pallet by the number of pallets that you picked up.
Therefore, total volume of pick up #1 looks like this: 4x4x4 = 64 sq feet per pallet. Since there are 18 pallets you will multiply the 64 x 18 which gives you 1,152 sq ft of space taken up in your trailer by the first pickup.
The second pick up is calculated exactly the same. You will multiply 3x4x4 which equals 48 sq ft per pallet. You picked up 26 pallets, therefore the second pick up took up 1,248 sq ft of space in your truck.
Total space used in your truck is 1,152 (Pick up #1) PLUS 1,248 (Pickup #2) for a total of 2,400 sq ft.
Your truck holds up to 3,536 sq ft of product, so if you subtract the 2,400 from this, you get 1,136 sq ft of space available for the final pickup.
Since pick up 1 and 3 are the same, you can use the volume calculation from your first stop. We know from our earlier calculation that each pallet took up 64 sq ft (4x4x4).
We just calculated that we had 1,136 sq ft of space left in the truck. Now, we just dived 1,136 by 64 to get the maximum number of pallets we can pick up at the last stop.
That formula would look like: 1,136 divided by 64 equals 17.75. Since we can’t load partial pallets, the most number of pallets that we can load onto the truck when we get to the last stop is 17!