(This post was written by Lee – Trace)
This is a pretty long post about not just the discount fuel program, but also about fueling at truck stops in general. There’s lots of information for people who love the details, like me. If you don’t want all that stuff, here’s the New York City version: I’m going to tell you how to save a TON of money buying fuel for your rig. A TON. So get a cup of coffee and enjoy.
Since we recently started traveling again, after sitting for six months, we started thinking about the costs normally associated with travel, such as campground fees, and fuel. Normally diesel is more expensive than gas, sometimes by quite a bit. We’re not the only ones who worry about this. Every rig burns fuel, whether you’re in a modified matchbox van or the largest and most expensive class A bus.
Because fuel is one of the major costs in this lifestyle, we are always on the lookout for cheaper ways to fuel up when we travel. Normally this topic might be considered boring by most people, but what if I told you that you could be saving up to fifty cents per gallon, and sometimes even more, whenever you fuel up? Would that be boring?
TSD Logistics offers RVrs access to their fuel program, and the savings are pretty spectacular. Before I go any further, I want to stress that this is NOT a credit card. It is NOT a membership program. It is NOT for gas. It is for diesel fuel ONLY, so if you do not purchase diesel, then you can stop reading here. Or, you can keep going so you can tell all your diesel buying friends about it! In addition to the savings on fuel, you can get up to $200 in cash per week (just like using an ATM) but there are no fees, so it’s cheaper than using most ATMs. And a further bonus, you can also use the card to purchase DEF in truck lanes that offer it, although there will be little or no discount for the DEF. Still a nice convenience for anyone who uses the DEF pump. (And if you don’t, you should try it, it’s much better than pouring the DEF in from a box or jug).
TSD Logistics is a bulk transport freight company that has been around since 1980, so they’re firmly established and stable, and will likely be around for a long time. Their primary work is as a carrier of the tire and rubber industry’s raw materials, including silica and carbon black. They invented some of the trailers and hoppers in common use today. Headquartered in Texarkana, TX, but operating throughout the US, they are able to negotiate some pretty impressive discounts on diesel fuel. (To be clear we are in no way associated with this company and are not being directly compensated to write this post. I should probably also state here that this is based solely on our experience and opinions. We always try to give good advice, but as always your mileage may vary. – Tracy)
The discounts are then made available to anyone who wants to sign up for their fuel card, which is through the Wex EFS system.
Once you have applied for and received the card, using it is relatively simple, with a few minor caveats. I will talk about those, and go into more detail about each step, but here’s how easy it is:
- Pull your rig into a truck lane at a truck or fuel stop that is part of the discount program.
- Insert or swipe the card at the pump.
- Answer the questions on the screen like you would at any pump.
- Pump your fuel (and DEF if available and needed)
- Details regarding your transaction, including the discount and fees show up in the app usually within a few minutes.
- Within 2-5 business days the money is drafted from your bank account and you receive an email showing you the details of the transaction and the TSD fees.
- Rinse, and repeat, and let the savings pile up!
I already mentioned this before, but it’s very important, so I will mention it again. This program is an extension of a trucking company, using their buying power to get you the “pro” price for diesel. So it’s not for gas. Diesel only. Look for green, although green doesn’t ALWAYS mean diesel. If you don’t see a sign that says DIESEL, or a diesel price, keep on going.
As I mentioned before, it’s NOT a credit card, it behaves more like a debit card. You use it instead of your debit card, but it’s connected to your checking or savings account. Then any money you spend is deducted from your checking account in a day or so, just like a debit card. (Some people open a secondary checking or savings account only for use with this program, because they are concerned about giving out their checking account information. If that’s something you want to do, you certainly can. Just be sure there are funds in any account associated with the card; they charge a $15 fee for insufficient funds.) To start with, if you want to attach this card to a separate checking or savings account, you’ll need to open one. Then you can either click HERE, or go to this address to apply for the card: https://tsdv.loadtracking.com:8443/im/fuelcardapp
“Apply” isn’t really the right word, you’re really just signing up. There’s no credit check, and I can’t think of a reason why they would reject anyone. They do ask for a social security number to protect them from people who sign up and buy fuel with an empty account. Here’s what the form you will fill out looks like:
As participants in the program, we get a small fuel credit for each person who signs up and uses the card, so if you do decide to get a card, please consider putting “Lee Perkins” in the Referred By field! Once you get the card, you can start using it immediately. (Although we are not being paid to promote this company we would receive a one-time $25 fuel credit once a new customer spends buys 100 gallons of fuel. Hopefully you know us well enough by now that we would NEVER recommend a company unless we believed in it. A little bit of free fuel is always a good thing though so we will certainly take it if you decide to use our names and use the program. If you have concerns please skip referring us, but we still recommend you try it out. There is no upfront cost, and if it doesn’t work for you we can’t think of any downsides to having the option. – Trace)
Since we started full timing, we have always preferred truck stops to gas stations, and truck lanes to car or RV lanes when we are hitched up. There are a lot of reasons for this. We got a Good Sam Pilot/Flying J credit card because that’s the brand I prefer, and we get a $0.08 discount off the cash price, which typically brings the Flying J/Pilot price down to match the rest of the chains. So I got to use the place I prefer, and not pay a premium for it. Truck stops are everywhere; they’re right at the exits, they are generally very easy to get in and out of and they generally have plenty of room to maneuver and park. Some of them are just massive places! They are designed for big rigs, all of which are bigger in every way than any RV.
Plus, fresh diesel is better than stale diesel, and these places move a LOT of fuel. There’s also no transaction limit. Lots of gas stations have $100 per card or per day limits, and large class A motorhomes can easily take that much fuel. As can many large pickups with auxiliary tanks. Most of the major chains have locations that are sized based on how busy they are, so you can see centers with 20 or more truck lanes. The pumps are also high volume, so it doesn’t take long at all to fuel, usually less than half the time of a standard pump. The caveat to that is if you have a pickup truck, make sure it has the large nozzle hole. Not all of them do. And as mentioned before, most now have DEF pumps at the truck lanes. Most larger chains have pretty well stocked convenience stores, and food options. Of course, all of these benefits usually mean the cost of fuel is a little higher, but that’s why we only use them when traveling.
The slightly higher price is worth it to us to not have to hassle with going miles away from the interstate and negotiating in and out of a tiny and possibly busy or closed gas station. And now, we can get all of those benefits AND spend less in most cases than local gas stations. We use the Gas Buddy app to find fuel prices when we’re not hitched, and many times the TSD discount price is lower than places like Wal Mart and others. When we’re hitched we use a variety of apps to find truck stops, mostly Truck Stops Pro. When we last traveled any considerable distance, a few weeks ago from San Antonio to western Minnesota, without fail the TSD discounted price at every location was lower at every major chain, and at tiny “mom and pop” type truck stops the price was the same as the cash price at those locations.
An unscientific collection of data has shown us that generally speaking, those small private truck stops are usually a little more rough around the edges, and the price is usually the same as “in town” gas stations. No frills, no extra markup on diesel. This is important to remember when I get to how TSD makes their money on your purchases. (For me this was the major downside of using the program. Flying J’s and Pilots are pretty consistent, but we were exploring new territory by using smaller truck stops. They were a real mixed bag. Some were really nice and clean and others not so great. This matters mostly for me because I try to walk the dog at every stop. I will say that some Pilots and Flying J’s are not that clean either. They are very consistent on the products they stock though. Mainly I am looking at this as a bit of an adventure and am trying to be more flexible. If you are super routine oriented around your stops this might not be the best choice for you. – Trace)
So, if you already are used to using truck lanes at truck stops, saving a bunch of money is going to be yet another benefit for you. If you haven’t done it, there’s genuinely nothing to be afraid of. You should give it a try whether you get this card or not, or while you wait for the card. Here are some basics to be aware of before you decide to give it a try. This isn’t everything, and if anyone comments things I have left out, I will update the post with them.
You are absolutely allowed to use truck lanes in a truck stop to fuel any RV or a pickup with or without a trailer hitched. These places are businesses, who want to make money, and your money is just as good as anyone else’s. Don’t be shy. Get on in there and stimulate the economy. If anyone ever tells you otherwise, smile and nod and tell them you’re on vacation from the Northern Mariana Islands. That’s a US territory, so they won’t hassle you for being a “foreigner”. If they ask why you don’t have an island tan, tell them you just got out of prison. Pull out a map and ask them for directions to the Grand Canyon. They’ll leave you alone.
The entrance is almost always separate from the car entrance. They are also usually HUGE entrances. Whenever possible, until you get the hang of them, try having your co-pilot look the location up on Google earth and spot the truck canopy. It’s usually in the back, and long and narrow. Then have them back track looking for the entrance. It’s usually like a service road, and in busier areas it can have it’s own traffic light. And usually, the car lanes and truck lanes are on opposite sides of the main building, and usually you cannot get from one to the other unless you go back out to the road and come back in. This is to keep cars from getting into the truck area.
Take your time. Go slow. Turn wide whenever you can. Pay attention to the layout and how trucks are parked and moving around. There’s almost always LOTS of space to maneuver, and if you are moving slowly you can see what others are doing and just copy them.
Don’t try to get the closest lane to the store. Usually that one is a dummy lane, and nonfunctional. When you can, take an empty lane rather than pull in behind someone. Truckers can take a long time to pull away, and backing up is tricky and dangerous. Impossible once someone pulls up behind you. Try to approach lanes as straight as you can so you don’t take up space you don’t need.
Stay put. If you have to wait in line, stay in the rig. The truck in front of you might pull forward within seconds or 15 minutes, but you don’t want to be the guy holding up the lane. Truck drivers aren’t shy about correcting your behavior.
Be prepared. Diesel is dirty disgusting filthy greasy stuff. It will be on the ground, so be careful, you don’t want to fall. It will be on the pump, the handle, the windshield cleaner, everything. Wear gloves, don’t lick anything.
Run inside. If you don’t have a card for that brand, or a fleet card (another reason to have a TSD EFS card!) you will likely have to go inside and lay down your card. Make a note of your lane number, otherwise you will have to go all the way back out to get it. And it can be a LOOOOONG walk.
Don’t wander. That fuel comes out of the pump FAST and HARD. If you wander, you will regret it. Ask me how I know. Don’t try to top off the tank, either. Ask me how I know.
Top off your DEF. I don’t care that it’s a little more money, I get DEF at the pump because it’s easier than using a box or a jug. Trust me.
Do your business and pull up. Once you’ve fueled up, cleaned you windows, checked your tire pressure (lots of truck stops have air hoses in the truck lanes!) and thrown our your trash, etc, get back in your rig and pull up; there’s often a line on the pavement showing you where to pull to. Trucks have MUCH larger tanks and take a while to fuel, so by clearing the lane, the guy behind you can do his thing while you run in to grab a snack and go to the bathroom. In most cases you will be back out before they are even done fueling. If you are doing anything else, like laundry (YES! Most truck stops have laundry facilities) or taking a shower, or having a sit down meal, whatever, then you really should go back out to your rig, park it in a parking space (if you’ve never done it before, it can be exciting to park your rig between two semi trucks, be sure and take a picture!) and go back inside. You might even decide to spend the night. It’s not as common as Wal Mart, but truck stops can be a safe and reasonable place to sleep at night. Just be sure to ask at the counter what the rules are. Some places charge a fee, some offer varying hookups, and some just want to be told that you are staying over.
Don’t weigh your rig. The one thing you don’t want to do at a truck stop is get weighed. (If you want to know how much something weighs, then weight yourself on the scale inside, although I don’t recommend that either.) RVs need to be weighed tire by tire to get any kind of accurate information, and weight and tire safety is too critical to do it badly. Don’t waste your money or the time of professionals who need to get weighed.
Some Pilot and Flying J locations (and possibly other chains, I don’t know) have “RV” lanes. These are super convenient for some folks, because they are usually off to the side of the regular car canopy, and will often have long pole windshield cleaners, dump and fresh water fill stations, and propane refilling. Lots of people LOVE these RV lanes because they offer lots of amenities for the RVer. I’ve used them, and I’m not a fan, mainly because they don’t have high volume pumps, and they ALWAYS require that you go around the car canopy and right in front of the main building to get in or out, and there’s always a ton of foot and vehicle traffic. Plus, and I can’t stress this enough, the TSD discount does NOT apply at RV lanes. TRUCK. LANES. ONLY.
Here’s how TSD makes money from this program. When you use the card, in addition to paying the discounted price for fuel, you pay 10% of the discount to TSD. In most cases, there is also a $0.65 fee that is added that is charged by the truck stop. This means that there are some cases where the card is NOT the best option, and you will need to do some quick math to determine that. If you are going to save less than $0.65 on a fill up and they charge the $0.65 fee, then you are paying more. Maybe just one penny more, but math is math.
So, to keep this super super simple:
Retail Price: $ 3.00 per gallon
Discount Price: $ 2.50 per gallon
Fee to TSD: $ 0.05 per gallon
Transaction Fee $ 0.65
Once you’ve got your shiny new EFS card, you’ll want to get the app. That’s very important, because you will want to use it to see what the prices are like, especially if you are going to be fueling near a city. TSD gets different discounts not just for each brand, but for each location, so the price can vary a LOT from truck stop to truck stop, especially around a city. On the open road it will be less so, but you still want to know what your options are. The app is not required. You will still get whatever discount is available if you use the card at a participating location, but you’re flying blind without the app and in some cases you will pay more than you need to, so I highly recommend the app.
Please be aware that while I was writing this I got an email from TSD telling about a MAJOR update coming soon to the app, so I will update this post once that happens with the new info and changes.
Right out of the gate I have to say that I am pretty unhappy with the app just as a spoiled user of technology. In this day and age it feels un-intuitive, and clunky. It works, but you will find it wanting. Download it, and to start with you will need to enter the entire ridiculously long card number. Your thumbs will get tired. Then the password. If you have the option, tell your phone you want to do the thumb scan or whatever other shortcut for logging in in the future. Sometimes when you launch the app after you’ve told it to remember all the info, the info isn’t there, and you have to close and reopen the app. And then it’s there. The first screen is just a list of your recent transactions. To see what’s available near you, you can look at the map, which will show you locations and prices within a radius that you can preset in preferences. For the purposes of this example, I am showing nearby Minneapolis:
The lowest price will always show up as a green icon, which I think is a nice feature. Other locations show the price. Locations where there is no price usually means that there is no negotiated discount. They will still take the card, but you will pay the “street” or cash price. If that’s the case, you should NOT use the card, because in addition to the street price you will pay the $0.65 transaction fee. But in this example, you can see that $1.879 is the current lowest price.
TSD negotiates a discount on the per gallon price, so if the station changes a price, the TSD price changes accordingly. If I tap on that location, I see that it’s a TA (TA is usually the best price based on current negotiations between the chains and TSD.) You can also see the address and lat/lon of the truck stop, but that’s it. (I really don’t like this. I often pick truck stops based not only on gas prices but food options. When its hot we tend to grab some fast food at these stops. If you always use your RV bathroom and RV kitchen to eat this is less of an issue. -Trace)
I don’t know why, but they choose not to include other useful stuff. Here’s a screen shot of the same truck stop in the Truck Stops Pro app. As you can see, it tells me the same info, but also tells me the distance, how many parking spaces there are, how many lanes, how many DEF lanes, LOTS of useful info. And I can click “ROUTE” and it will dump the address into my maps app to take me there. ALL of this should be in the TSD app, in my opinion.
If I then look that same location up in another app, I see that the retail price is $ 2.199. So the discount is $ 0.32 per gallon. TSD Logistics will add a fee of 10% of that, which would be $ 0.032 per gallon, so the “adjusted” price per gallon is now $ 1.919. That means to fill my 35 gallon tank will cost $ 67.16 plus the $ 0.65 transaction fee, for a total of $ 67.81 instead of $ 76.96. I saved $ 9.15 on that fill-up. I know that seems like a small amount after all the buildup, but that’s about 11% savings. Based on that if we had used that card all last year, we would have saved $600. If someone were to say, here’s $600, do you know what you would do with it? (Trace would buy presents for our grandson.) (You bet I will – Trace)
The app also allows you to do basic Point A to Point B route planning that shows truck stops along the way so you can plan to take advantage of the lowest prices.
But here’s another major failing in the app, for me. In order to do routing, you must have a city, state and zip code. That’s just stupid. So now while you’re bouncing down the road your copilot has to look up zip codes on the internet just to put in a “TO” location to get a green line to show you truck stops along the way. This NEEDS to be fixed. (Totally agree. I was using two different apps just to make this work. I would find the location on the EFS app and then look up the other info and routing. It was pretty frustrating initially, but I ultimately got the hang of it. I found it was MUCH easier if I did it way in advance so I wasn’t trying to find a place under pressure. – Trace)
As I mentioned, they are releasing a new version of the app in a few weeks, so hopefully some of this no-brainer stuff will be fixed. I will definitely be updating this post with the new information once the app is released. In the meantime, here’s the text of an email I received talking about various upgrades:
“We are releasing a beta test on our new TSD app this week. We are estimating a public release by the end of August to all iOS users, with the Android release shortly after that. It has some really great, new features including the ability to track multiple cards at one time, more details on each fueling station, the ability to send feedback to TSD on an individual station, and many more opportunities for savings. One of those opportunities will include access to new insurance options for you and your RV. Soon, you will be able to request a no-obligation quote directly from the new app and take advantage of the collective buying power of our entire group. We are also making big investments in our billing system to allow you more visibility and accessibility to your account. This will allow you to sign up for an online account where you can view all of your ACH statements, edit your bank account information, see your referral credits and monitor your account status in real time. Look for an email within the next few weeks to sign up for this exciting, new service. Simply follow the link, agree to the new terms and conditions and create an account. From there, just enter all of your information including your bank account. You will not need to re-enter your social security number or the person who referred you. We are very excited about these new features and we hope this will make your experience with our program more user friendly. We are continuing to improve our program every day and could not do this without the help of you, our loyal customers. You have been instrumental in growing our program and we cannot thank you enough for your continued support.”
So here’s some details of our recent drive from San Antonio to western Minnesota, and what we saved:
Starting out from San Antonio, Gas Buddy showed me the cheapest diesel in the area was $2.39, and the retail price at the TA was a whopping $2.75. The TSD price was only $ 2.247. A difference of $ 0.51, which gave them a “commission” of $ 0.05 per gallon, making my price $ 2.29. At 32.5 gallons I paid $ 74.42 instead of $ 89.37. That’s $ 14.30 savings after the $ 0.65 transaction fee, on a not quite full tank.
And continuing on, here are two screen shots of the “settlement statements” they send to show you what you paid.
For the stop below we paid a 10% fee of $1.54, which means our savings with the 65¢ transaction fee was $14.70.
For the stop below we paid a 10% fee of $1.16, which means our savings with the 65¢ transaction fee was $10.95.
I will continue to talk about how much we save as we travel and data piles up, but clearly this is a fantastic deal. We am doing more or less the same thing we have been doing for six years, but now we are spending less money.
There is a little bad news. As recently as March 2020 you could use the TSD card at Pilot and Flying J locations, but that is no longer the case. Customers are getting the shaft because a couple of big businesses don’t know where their money comes from. Good Sam has an exclusive discount program with Pilot/Flying J. RVers are only to receive discounts on fuel at Pilot/Flying J IF they have a Good Sam membership card. Let me say that again, Pilot/Flying J has an agreement with Good Same that ONLY Good Same card users get a discount. I do NOT agree with this practice, for one very simple reason. The marketing for the Pilot/Flying J Good Sam card touts all the savings you can get EXCLUSIVELY with the card. We have that card, and while it does give us 8¢ off the cash price at Pilot/Flying J, that price is consistently AT LEAST 10¢ higher than all other truck stops, even the ones directly next door or across the street from Pilot/Flying J. So, no, I don’t think it’s smart of them at all to lock in customers and essentially give them nothing. TSD was not aware of this until they got a call from the management at Pilot/Flying J, who put out the following statement:
“Pilot/Flying J is no longer in business with TSD Logistics (TSD). Unfortunately, it was recently brought to our attention that TSD was reselling our fuel by offering its discounts outside of the company.
We were unaware of this activity and did not agree to the resale of our fuel. Our contract was with TSD and its fleet of drivers only.
We aim to provide the best experience to all of our guests, including RV and auto travelers as well as professional drivers. We continue to offer discounts and rewards to RV customers through our partnership with Good Sam. This partnership had no influence on our decision to end our business relationship with TSD.”
From my perspective, there is now no reason whatsoever to do business with Pilot/Flying J, as they are always going to be the most expensive option. And Good Sam is unwilling to budge on their exclusive arrangement, so I am now no longer interested in doing business with them, either. Now we’re huge fans of TA, currently the leader in discounts on the TSD card. Everyone is winning but Good Sam and Pilot/Flying J.
I hope this post has been informative and helpful, and as always I am happy to answer any questions anyone has. I will also update the post as new information becomes available, and once I try out the new app. Don’t forget, if you decide to sign up we will get a little fuel credit down the road after you’ve bought 100 gallons of fuel, so consider putting Lee Perkins in the “referred by” field and then go right on out and drive around in circles for hours and hours. Here’s one more picture for you for sticking through all the way to the very end.
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