Lighten the Fuel Load

Kelly Ann Butterbaugh

A recent CNN report stated that airlines are reducing fuel costs by lightening airplanes. Drinking glasses have been replaced by plastic ones, and any unnecessary item such as an old cooking oven in the stewards' area has been removed. By replacing beverage/meal carts with newer, lighter carts, US Airways estimates that it will save $1.7 million a year on this weight reduction alone.


I, like most reading this article, do not own a jumbo jet. However, I do own a gas guzzling SUV, so the empathy with the airlines is still there. Airlines claim that jet fuel prices have doubled in the past six months. Gasoline prices aren't far behind that. If American Airlines can save 111 million gallons of fuel a year by lightening their flying loads, than I can do the same with the family vehicle.

Eliminate Dead Weight

It makes sense. The more weight you carry on four tires, the more fuel is needed to get to your destination. Start with the dead weight in the carómost likely in the trunk. Some of us travel around with our life stories in the trunk of our cars. There are strollers, gym bags, golf clubs, fishing equipment, coolers for grocery stops, and even dog crates stored back there. How often do you use the items? If you won't use it this trip, leave it at home. Like the spare microwave that used to weigh down the jumbo jet ìjust in caseî, your trunk junk is costing you fuel miles.


Evaluate the Cargo

Once the obvious dead weight is gone from your vehicle, look in the passenger area for extra cargo. The small library of books I keep in the back seat to entertain my son weighs six pounds. If Jet Blue replaced a snack bag of cookies, crackers, and spreadable cheese with a bag of light cracker crisps to save fuel costs, my six pound library pile can be reduced as well.

The mini suitcase of CDs, the extra blanket in the back of the van, even the beach sized umbrella shoved under the back seat can all stay at home if they're going to cost me fuel.

Take a Direct Flight

The last step airlines have taken is to make more direct flights and fill their planes with fare paying passengers as much as possible, a further emphasis on old practices. Taking this into consideration, we've eliminated the scenic routes of our journeys and paid more attention to planning logical errand routes that don't waste miles. Carpooling is the answer to filling the seats and sharing the fuel burden.


My lighter load may not have the impact on my SUV as it did on airplanes, but the plan can't go wrong. If I'm not saving enough fuel to count the monetary savings, I am saving a tiny fraction of the resource. Every tiny bit helps the environment. Even if my fuel consumption is nil, I'm still riding around in a cleaner car.

Lighten the Fuel Load

About The Author: Kelly Ann Butterbaugh is a freelance writer who regularly contributes to a variety of magazines and has written a history book for middle readers. Visit her website for writing help, lesson plans, history fun, or work for hire at


November 2, 20080 found this helpful

None of these measures will reduce gas consumption that much on a vehicle as heavy as an SUV. It'd make more sense just to trade it in for something more lightweight, because that will save a lot more money--AND be better for the environment--in the long run.

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