Diesel prices continue upward, oil dips

| Monday, March 28, 2005

Prices at the pump are making truckers reach deeper and deeper into their pockets to stay out on the road. For the sixth straight week, the national average price of diesel has been above $2 a gallon; fuel is now running about 26 cents higher per gallon than in mid-February.

According to ProMiles, the state of Washington had the highest statewide average for retail diesel prices Monday, March 28, at $2.58 per gallon. Oklahoma had the cheapest diesel with a price of $2.10.

The national average price-per-gallon for diesel increased slightly Monday, March 28, from $2.244 to $2.249, the Department of Energy reported.

The highest average prices in the nation are once again found in California, where the average cost is $2.512. The biggest jump was in the Midwest region, where the average price per gallon jumped nearly 4 cents to $2.203.

Among the higher average prices were those in the West Coast region, at $2.483; in New England, at $2.374; the Central Atlantic region, at $2.360; and the Rocky Mountain region, at $2.326.

Other prices included the East Coast, at $2.248; the Lower Atlantic region, at $2.189; and the Gulf Coast, at $2.182.

Meanwhile, crude oil prices fell Monday as recent price spikes have continued to slow.

Light, sweet crude for delivery in May dropped 39 cents to $54.45 a barrel in afternoon trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange – down more than $3 a barrel from the all-time high set earlier this month.

Oil analyst Victor Shum at Purvin & Gertz in Singapore told The Associated Press he expects prices to ease further due to the seasonal drop in demand in the second quarter.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries announced to the world Sunday that it would take its time in increasing output quotas by 500,000 barrels per day because of global petroleum market fluctuations.

The cartel, which produces nearly 40 percent of the world’s oil, agreed earlier this month to widen the spigot to pump an extra half-million barrels of oil a day and to consult on a similar boost later if prices do not come down.

With the price at the pump hovering near record highs and with no immediate end in sight, owner-operators and others in the trucking industry are being dealt a serious blow for any chance at turning a profit.

One thing that could help owner-operators cope with the cost of diesel is the fuel surcharge provision recently approved in the U.S. House as part of its version of the highway bill. The surcharge language in the House bill at Section 4139 requires all motor carriers, brokers and freight forwarders running truckload freight to implement fuel surcharges and pass on 100 percent of those surcharges to the person who actually pays for the fuel.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is urging truckers across the country to write, fax and call their U.S. senators and ask them to include the same fuel surcharge language in the Senate’s version of the highway bill.

Congress is in recess until April 4, but the Senate Commerce Committee is scheduled to take up its portion of the highway bill as soon as it reconvenes next week.

If truckers are not sure who their senators are, they may phone the OOIDA Membership Department and they’ll look up the information. The toll-free OOIDA number is 1-800-444-5791. Truckers can also call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121, give the operator their ZIP code and then be connected directly to their senators’ offices.

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