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How Much Fuel Does An Excavator Use Per Hour?

Matt at Centex Excavation
Author: MattPublished: May 5, 2023 Updated: January 7, 2024 • Filed Under: Equipment and Machinery

Key Takeaways

  1. Fuel Consumption Factors: Excavator fuel usage varies based on engine power, load factor, and job site conditions, with larger and more powerful excavators generally consuming more fuel.
  2. Fuel Efficiency Practices: To maximize fuel efficiency, it’s important to maintain the excavator properly, minimize excessive idling, and match the machine size to the task at hand.
  3. Fuel Usage Estimation: Estimating fuel use per hour involves considering the excavator’s engine size, load capacity, and specific job site conditions, with an average consumption rate provided by manufacturers as a baseline.

Construction sites require heavy machinery to complete the project successfully. Typically, every project requires a combination of workers, tools, and equipment to get the job done right. One of the most critical machines on a job site is the excavator, a heavy-duty piece of equipment that is used for digging deep into the earth or demolishing an existing structure.

The size, power, and fuel usage of excavators can vary, making them a crucial factor to consider when planning the project’s cost.

To estimate an excavator’s fuel usage per hour, several factors can affect an excavator’s fuel consumption.

Excavator SizeAverage Fuel Consumption (Gallons Per Hour)Estimated Cost Per Hour
Small Excavator (e.g., Cat 301.5)1 to 2.5 gallons$3.50 to $8.75 (@ $3.50/gallon)
Medium Excavator (e.g., Cat 310)2.8 to 4.1 gallons$9.80 to $14.35 (@ $3.50/gallon)
Large Excavator (e.g., Cat 326FL)5 to 10 gallons or more$17.50 to $35.00 (@ $3.50/gallon)
Fuel consumption estimates.

We’ll explore these factors and provide you with tips for maximizing fuel efficiency and reducing fuel consumption. By following these tips, you can save money while contributing to a better environment.

It’s important to note that fuel consumption can depend on the size and power of the excavator. In general, larger excavators consume more fuel than smaller ones, and more powerful excavators consume more fuel than less powerful ones.

The basics of excavator fuel usage.

Excavators are machines that are integral to any construction site. They are versatile and can perform a range of tasks such as digging trenches, grading surfaces, and moving heavy materials with ease. They can do all sorts of grading and site preparation.

However, you may be surprised to learn just how much fuel these machines consume per hour. Fuel consumption is often overlooked, but it can have a significant impact on the cost-effectiveness of an excavation project.

Several factors influence the amount of fuel an excavator consumes. These include the engine power, load factor, and the terrain of the job site. Excavator size and the material being excavated are also important considerations.

Typically, a smaller machine will consume between 1 to 2.5 gallons per hour, while a bigger machine, like a wheel loader or a trackhoe, will burn more fuel due to their larger engines and more demanding workload. We typically see the larger machines burn upwards of 5-10 gallons per hour or more.

With diesel sitting at around $3.50 per gallon, that’s $35 per hour just in fuel costs. Never mind the other costs associated with your project.

Basic calculations for fuel.

Most machines and trucks will have a baseline fuel burn rate. You can usually find this at the manufacturer. For example, Catepillar lists their Cat 310 Excavator consumes between 2.8-4.1 gallons per hour. Of course, that’s an average.

But how do you get an accurate calculation?

To start, you need to fill up the fuel tank completely. Once it’s topped off, operate the excavator for three hours. Be sure to note the terrain, workload, and other factors.

Once you’ve operated it for three hours, top off the fuel and note how many gallons it takes to top it off.

Now you divide that number by three and that’s a good average for how much your excavator or other construction equipment consumes throughout an hour of work.

For example, let’s say you have that Cat 310 excavator and you’re digging a pool. The tracks are moving, the boom and bucket are operating, but it’s generally flat terrain. After three hours of moving earth you top it off with diesel and note that it took 8.6 gallons to fill it up.

  • 9.2 / 3 = 3.1 gallons per hour.

Given that task and those conditions, you can expect your 310 to burn 3.1 gallons per hour. Of course, if you’re idling and not doing anything other than enjoying the A/C in your cab, then that number might go down a bit.

It is crucial to have a basic understanding of excavator fuel consumption because fuel costs are a significant expense for any project.

Knowing how much fuel the excavator burns per hour allows for more accurate estimates, making it easier to budget and plan effectively.

Factors influencing excavator fuel consumption.

Excavator fuel consumption is not a straightforward thing to calculate. It involves several variables that influence the fuel efficiency of the machine and the job site.

The engine power of the excavator, for example. The size of the engine impacts how much fuel it consumes. Bigger engines guzzle more fuel, while smaller ones sip it.

Our Cat 310 in our example is a good middle-of-the-road excavator. Not too big, not too small.

The load factor is another critical aspect that affects excavator fuel consumption. The heavier the load the machine is carrying, the more fuel it needs to function. Moreover, wheel loaders that move around more consume more fuel per hour than those with less traveling time.

You’ll also want to look at the jobsite itself. The job site’s conditions and variables also play a vital role in determining fuel consumption. The type of job, the weather at the site, and the terrain can all affect how much fuel an excavator consumes. If it’s working on a rocky area, for instance, it’ll consume more fuel because the machine needs to work harder to handle the surface.

These aren’t the only elements to bear in mind when calculating an excavator’s fuel consumption. You should also consider the fuel tank capacity, the size of the machine, and the fuel burn rate.

Other factors, such as diesel prices and the duration of the work shift, can also have an impact.

Maximizing fuel efficiency requires making thoughtful decisions. You need to select the right machine, maintain it properly, and factor in the job site’s variables.

Estimating fuel use per hour.

When you need to estimate the fuel use per hour for your excavator, there are many factors to consider. The engine power and load factor play a significant role in fuel consumption, which means that the size of the engine and the proportion of its maximum capacity that the machine is utilizing are important factors to keep in mind.

For instance, a wheel loader with a 200 hp engine will use more fuel than one with a 100 hp engine. Additionally, a machine operating at high load factor will require more fuel than a machine operating at a low load factor. This is just a quick way to estimate fuel use on the fly.

It is essential to consider job site conditions as well when calculating fuel usage per hour. Factors like the kind of materials being moved, the distance between the job site and fuel station, and traffic congestion all influence fuel consumption, and it’s crucial to make sure that your equipment isn’t running needlessly.

To estimate the excavator’s fuel usage per hour, you can check the fuel consumption rate mentioned in the machine’s manual or by consulting with the manufacturer. Keep in mind that there are several other factors that have a bearing, such as equipment maintenance, operator skill, and fuel type.

Maximizing fuel efficiency for excavators.

When it comes to fuel efficiency, there are certain steps you can take to ensure your excavator is operating at its peak performance.

Ensure the excavator is maintained.

One of the most critical things you can do is to ensure the engine is running smoothly. An engine that does not function correctly can use more fuel than necessary. Keep the engine adequately maintained and tuned to ensure you minimize fuel consumption.

Minimize excessive idling.

Excessive idling is another thing that can contribute to increased fuel consumption.

The longer the excavator idles, the more fuel it wastes. Encourage operators to switch off the engine when the machine is not in use and to avoid idling unnecessarily. That’s not to say that it doesn’t burn less fuel when idling, but it’s also not performing any tasks either.

Match the machine for the task.

The load factor is also a crucial consideration in excavator fuel efficiency. When the machine operates at or near its maximum load capacity, it consumes more fuel than it would under lighter loads.

It’s preferable to use a smaller excavator or wheel loader for smaller jobs that do not require a large machine or load capacity.

Other tips for conserving fuel in your excavator.

Besides these factors, some additional steps can help you improve fuel efficiency, such as reducing travel time between job sites, using the correct fuel for the machine, and regularly checking the fuel system for leaks or other problems.

By taking these actions, you can decrease fuel consumption, cut costs, and enhance the efficiency of your construction equipment.

Get the job done and conserve fuel!

Fuel consumption is a critical aspect to bear in mind when you’re running any construction equipment, primarily an excavator.

Various factors influence fuel usage, and following the guidelines given here can help minimize fuel burn and lower the cost of your project – now that’s a win-win situation!

Some of the factors that can affect fuel consumption include the load factor, engine power, and job site conditions. Keep a close eye on your fuel usage and adjust your practices as necessary to maximize fuel efficiency and profitability.

If reducing fuel consumption is a priority for your construction site, there are a few key steps to take. Regular maintenance of your excavator is essential, as is monitoring fuel usage frequently and making sure your engine is running efficiently. Upgrading to modern equipment with newer, more fuel-efficient engines is also worth considering.

By taking steps to minimize fuel burn and maximize fuel efficiency, you can make significant cost savings.

About the Author

Matt Avatar

Matt

Excavation Expert

Matt is a highly experienced heavy equipment operator with over two decades of experience in the construction industry. His expertise covers a wide range of machinery and project types, and he is known for his focus on safety, efficiency, and problem-solving. Matt's commitment to delivering high-quality work within deadlines and budgets has made him highly respected at Centex Excavation and the excavation industry.

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