How many miles does a semi get per tank?

Semi trucks, also known as big rigs or 18-wheelers, are an essential part of the transportation and shipping industry. With their massive fuel tanks and powerful diesel engines, semis are able to haul huge loads over long distances. But how many miles can a semi truck actually travel on a single tank of fuel? The answer depends on a variety of factors.

Semi Truck Fuel Tank Capacity

One of the most important factors determining semi truck fuel range is the size of the fuel tanks. Semi trucks have much larger fuel tanks than typical passenger vehicles. The exact tank capacity can vary based on the make, model, and configuration of the truck. Here are some general fuel tank sizes for semi trucks:

Semi Truck Fuel Tank Size Gallons
Small/Medium Sized Tanks 50-100 gallons
Large Sized Tanks 100-150 gallons
Extra Large Sized Tanks 150-250 gallons

As you can see, tank size can range from 50 gallons for a small semi tank up to 250 gallons or more for an extra large tank. The most common fuel tank size is 100-150 gallons. Larger tanks allow the semi to haul heavier loads over longer distances.

Average Semi Truck Fuel Economy

In addition to tank size, the fuel economy of the semi truck also greatly impacts the overall fuel range. Semis have very low fuel economy compared to other diesel powered vehicles due to their immense size and weight. The average fuel economy for a semi truck is between 5 to 7 miles per gallon when fully loaded.

Here are some factors that affect semi fuel economy:

  • Weight of cargo – Fuel economy decreases significantly with heavier loads
  • Driving conditions – Mountainous or difficult terrain reduces MPG
  • Speed – Driving at consistent moderate speeds improves MPG
  • Maintenance – Good engine and drivetrain maintenance improves efficiency
  • Aerodynamics – Streamlined truck/trailer design improves wind resistance

Semi trucks achieve their best fuel economy when running at a consistent 55-65 MPH speed on flat highways without too heavy of a load. But under real world driving conditions, most semi trucks average between 5-7 MPG when loaded.

Average Semi Truck Fuel Range

By combining the average fuel tank capacity and fuel economy, we can estimate the average real world driving range for a semi truck when fully loaded:

Tank Size Fuel Economy Driving Range
100 gallons 6 MPG 600 miles
150 gallons 5 MPG 750 miles
200 gallons 7 MPG 1,400 miles

As you can see from the table, a typical semi truck with a 100-150 gallon tank and 5-7 MPG fuel economy can travel between 600-750 miles on a full tank when fully loaded. Larger 200+ gallon tanks can extend that range up to 1,000-1,400 miles under ideal conditions.

It’s important to note that these figures apply when the semi is fully loaded. An empty or lightly loaded semi will achieve much better fuel economy, which translates into a longer driving range. Real world fuel range varies dramatically based on driving conditions, load weight, driver behavior, and other factors.

Factoring in Reserve Fuel

In practice, semi trucks never run their fuel tanks completely empty. It is essential to leave reserve fuel to account for detours, traffic delays, and reaching the next refueling station. Running out of fuel in a big rig could put the driver in a dangerous situation.

As a rule of thumb, semi trucks plan their routes so they can refuel by the time the tank is half empty. This means only half of the tank capacity is usable fuel. The other half is reserve. So a 150 gallon tank would have just 75 gallons of usable fuel.

Factoring in reserve fuel reduces the real world range to 50% of the tank capacity. Here is an adjusted table showing driving range with 50% as reserve:

Tank Size 50% Usable Fuel Driving Range
100 gallons 50 gallons 300 miles
150 gallons 75 gallons 375 miles
200 gallons 100 gallons 700 miles

As you can see, the usable real world range with reserve fuel for a semi is typically 300-700 miles under normal driving conditions when fully loaded. Larger tanks provide more buffer.

Maximizing Semi Truck Fuel Range

Professional semi truck drivers and fleet managers utilize a number of strategies to maximize the driving range from each tank of fuel. Here are some tips:

  • Use every inch – Pack the trailer fully but legally
  • Remove excess weight – Strip unnecessary gear from truck
  • Drive slower – Target 55-60 MPH highway speeds
  • Use cruise control – Maintains steady optimal speed
  • Minimize idling – Shut off engine when waiting to reduce fuel burn
  • Service regularly – Maintain engine and components
  • Use aerodynamic gear – Side skirts, roof fairings

Following these fuel saving practices helps semi trucks achieve their maximum possible range. Technology also continues to improve semi truck fuel economy. New models feature advanced aerodynamics, auxiliary power units to cut idling, and more efficient engines.

Key Factors in Semi Truck Fuel Range

To summarize the key factors that determine real world driving range for semi trucks:

  • Fuel tank capacity – More capacity extends range
  • Fuel economy – MPG heavily dependent on load and conditions
  • Driving with reserve fuel – Typically 50% of tank capacity
  • Loading weight – Heavier loads drastically reduce MPG
  • Terrain and road conditions – Mountains, traffic, weather limit MPG
  • Driving behavior – Speed, idling affect MPG
  • Truck maintenance – Improves fuel economy

Considering these variables, the typical driving range for a fully loaded semi truck is 300-700 miles depending on tank size. Leaving ample reserve, driving efficiently, using every tool available, and proper maintenance helps maximize range.


In conclusion, fuel tank capacity, fuel economy, and reserve fuel are the major factors that determine semi truck driving range per tank. Real world data shows that most semi trucks when fully loaded have a range of 300-700 miles accounting for reserve fuel and average MPG. Range can be extended through careful driving, fleet management, improved aerodynamics, and other efficiency optimizations. With their massive fuel tanks and long range capabilities, semi trucks will continue delivering goods across vast distances.

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