ATA projects record-high fuel expenses for trucking in 2008

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The American Trucking Associations announced today, March 17, that it is projecting a record high diesel fuel bill in 2008. Meanwhile, the national average retail price of a gallon of diesel soared 15.5 cents to set a record high for the fourth consecutive week, $3.974, for the week ending Monday, March 17.

ATA says the trucking industry will spend $135 billion on fuel in 2008, based on current fuel price forecasts; this marks a $22 billion increase over the $112.6 billion spent by trucking in 2007.

Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer, says the trucking industry is experiencing the highest prolonged fuel prices in history. Historically, fuel represented the second-highest operating expense for motor carriers, accounting for as much as 25 percent of total operating costs. For some motor carriers, however, fuel is beginning to surpass labor as their largest expense.

“The trucking industry is making great strides in its efforts to reduce overall fuel consumption,” Graves says. “But an affordable supply of diesel fuel is imperative to keep our trucks moving. There is little to suggest that fuel prices will decline any time soon. Yet every day, ATA hears new stories from its members about how escalating fuel prices are hurting their businesses and affecting their livelihood.”

The national average retail price price, which has climbed 69.4 cents in the last five weeks, is $1.293 higher than the same week last year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The average price, which has been above $3 for 26 consecutive weeks, appears likely to surpass the $4 mark next week.

All regions tracked by DOE saw prices increases. The biggest increase, 18.8 cents, was in the Central Atlantic region, where the price roared to $4.177 to become the nation’s most expensive diesel by region. The smallest increase, 11.6 cents, was in the Gulf Coast region, where the price climbed to $3.914. The nation’s least expensive diesel by region, $3.892, was in the Rocky Mountain region, where week-over-week prices climbed 16.0 cents.

ATA says the cost to fill the fuel tanks on a typical tractor-trailer has increased 116 percent, or $615, in just five years. Because trucks haul 70 percent of all freight tonnage, rising fuel costs have the potential to increase the cost of everything transported by truck, including food, retail and manufactured goods.

To alleviate future significant fuel price fluctuations, ATA has called upon Congress and the Bush administration to address this crisis situation and move immediately to take steps to increase diesel fuel supply; these include increased refining capacity and the environmentally sound exploration of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Outer Continental Shelf.

For state-by-state diesel prices, updated daily, click here.