In the wake of attack; the scramble for fuel

By Land Line staff | 9/11/2001

Grain Valley, MO (Sept. 11, 2001) -- The high state of alert, lock down and some total shutdowns of the nation's refineries that followed this morning's apparent terrorist attacks sent an instant panic message to oil companies. By noon Tuesday, truckers all over the nation began reporting colossal leaps in fuel prices at the pump.

Gas took off first, with many stations in the Midwest reporting price hikes and even outages by 4 p.m. In Oklahoma, where prices were reported to be $3.60 a gallon for diesel by 3 p.m., lines formed early in the afternoon and truckstops fretted about dwindling supplies. In Texas, fuel prices in Tyler, Valley View and Van Horn jumped 40 cents in a single hike. In Kingman, AZ, prices jumped from $1.52 to $1.91. Along the Arkansas-Missouri state border, several service stations reported being out of fuel, with no incoming supplies in sight. Oklahoma Quik Trips reported outages by late afternoon.

"My driver called me this afternoon from the TA down by Bowling Green (KY) and said before his very eyes, the price shot up 20 cents as he was fueling up," says OOIDA member Sam Carroll, an owner-operator who owns three trucks. "And the word was, another 20 cents was expected by midnight. This is absolutely the worst thing I've seen. This is no more than profiteering off of our nation's victims."

Truckstop owners, however, say they are helpless to control pricing. AMBEST, an association of truckstops headquartered in Brentwood, TN, says incidents of this nature are bound to make suppliers nervous. Other major truckstop chains declined comment.

Suppliers are not the only ones with the jitters. According to broker Billy Doublebower of Owasso, OK, there is a feeding frenzy going on in Tulsa. Doublebower said the local news stations are advising people not to panic and that the oil refineries are not shutting down, but motorists are not buying it. "I filled up early this morning at $1.65," he told Land Line, "but now there are long lines at the stations and gas is hovering at $3.00. Diesel is less."

"There's a fear of running out of fuel, so the pump price was affected immediately," says Thaddeus Wysocki of the VanCo Travel and Auto Plaza in Stockton, CA. "We're an independent with five stops in California and we raised the price to $1.69 and we are staying there. Every truckstop around here jumped to $2.00 or more, but we won't do that because we care."

Quik Trip headquarters are reportedly holding steady with existing prices, saying due to the national emergency, they won't raise prices until the company has to.

Owner-operator Tim VonDuyke, of Valley City, OH, says he was fueling at the Flying J in Fort Pierce, FL He was stunned as he watched the price of diesel go from $1.43.9 to $1.84.9. He immediately jumped on his cell phone and called the Flying J headquarters in Utah and vented on them for ten minutes. Much to his amazement, fifteen minutes later, the pump price had fallen to $155.9.

OOIDA member George Earls stopped in Haubstadt, IN, where the price of fuel had jumped about 40 cents to $1.72 at the Williams and Flying J truckstops, compared to the nearby Pilot with its price still at $1.41. Earls also believes the big oil companies are using the terrorist activities as an "excuse to gouge truckers."

"By the time I get to my destination in Reno, NV, " says Earls, "I expect fuel prices to be at least $2.00 or more. If that happens, I'll have to take my truck to the house."

Paul Sasso, owner-operator from Edgewater, FL, predicts an energy emergency and freight slowdown by the end of the week. "I have talked to six brokers, looking for loads all day," says Sasso. "The rates are all in the 80 to 95 cents a mile range and basically what every one is telling me, because I'm in Florida, is to pick it up on the other end." Sasso says he needs another 30 cents at least, to even turn his reefer unit on. "This situation is evident of the volatility we truckers have to cope with. It underscores the tremendous need for lawmakers to pass HR 2161 (the Motor Carrier Fuel Cost Equity Act) and get it on the books."