U.S. diesel price may surpass $4 next week

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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.

The 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, with three areas becoming the first ever to surpass the $4 mark. The biggest price 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. Also breaking the $4 barrier were New England ($4.119) and the West coast ($4.018).

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.

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

The American Trucking Associations on Monday, March 17, projected a record high diesel fuel bill for the trucking industry in 2008. According to ATA, trucking 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.

A Tennessee trucking company has laid off just over half its work force, citing rising fuel costs as the reason, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported today, March 18. Randy Stephens, general manager with DRC Express, told the newspaper those truck drivers would be brought back to work if fuel costs come down.

DRC Express has 41 employees, and the layoffs of 23 people are effective Friday, March 21, Stephens told the News Sentinel. He told the newspaper the fuel costs have been “putting a pinch” on the general freight hauler, which at one point was up for sale.