U.S. diesel price falls before surpassing $4 mark

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The national average retail price of a gallon of diesel fell 2.5 cents to $3.964 for the week ending Monday, March 31. The diesel price had set record highs for five weeks prior to Monday’s decline.

Still, the price, which had climbed 70.9 cents in the previous six weeks, is $1.174 higher than the same week last year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The average price has been above $3 for 28 consecutive weeks.

All regions tracked by DOE saw prices decreases except for the Rocky Mountain region, where week-over-week prices climbed 1.9 cents to $3.972. The biggest price decrease, 3.5 cents, was in the Midwest region, where the price fell to $3.929. The smallest decrease, 0.7 cent, was in the West Coast region, where the price declined to $4.049.

The nation’s most expensive diesel by region, $4.160, was in the Central Atlantic region, where week-over-week prices fell 2.6 cents. The nation’s least expensive diesel by region, $3.907, was in the Gulf Coast region, where week-over-week prices declined 2.1 cents.

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

Several news services reported today, April 1, that owner-operators across the country had pulled their rigs off the road, and others had slowed to a crawl on major highways, in a loosely organized protest of high diesel prices.

Some truckers, on CB radios and trucking websites, had called for a strike today, saying the action might pressure President Bush to stabilize prices by using the nation’s oil reserves. But the protests appeared to be scattered because trucking companies were not on board and there did not appear to be any central coordination.

Teamsters officials told the Associated Press they had nothing to do with any kind of protests. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association told the AP that it also was not organizing anything; federal law prohibits the association from calling for a strike because it is a trade association.

In Washington, meanwhile, top executives of the five biggest U.S. oil companies — Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP, Chevron and ConocoPhillips — told Congress today, April 1, they know high fuel prices are hurting consumers. But they deflected any blame and argued their profits — $123 billion last year — were in line with other industries, according to the AP.

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The American Trucking Associations last week urged the Bush administration to act quickly to ensure that strategies are in place to ensure an affordable supply of oil for the nation’s 3.5 million truck drivers and American consumers. For some motor carriers, fuel is beginning to surpass labor as their largest expense, according to ATA; this ultimately will increase the cost of everything delivered by truck.

ATA is urging the federal government to help bring down the price of diesel fuel and to alleviate trucking companies’ hardships by doing the following:

  • Stop filling and instead release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve;
  • Establish a national diesel fuel standard;
  • Allow environmentally responsible exploration of oil-rich areas in the United States that are now off-limits;
  • Allow environmentally responsible development of crude resources in oil shale and tar sands in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming;
  • Work with the 50 state attorneys general to combat any fuel price gouging that might occur;
  • Continue to fund the Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay Transport Partnership Program, which encourages fuel-saving strategies;
  • Streamline EPA’s regulatory framework for reviewing and processing applications for additional refinery operations;
  • Require speed limiters set for 68 mph or lower on all new trucks;
  • Set a national maximum speed limit of 65 mph;
  • Suspend the collection of the 12 percent federal excise tax on motor carriers’ purchase of auxiliary power units;
  • Require states to grant a weight exemption for APUs; and
  • Eliminate “splash and dash” — a tax benefit for imported biodiesel that subsequently is exported.
  • “The signs are troubling,” says Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer. “We are concerned about fuel’s direct impact on our industry and also its effects on the nation’s economy. The industry is doing its part to conserve fuel, but we need help.”

    ATA recently issued letters to Bush, Department of Energy, EPA, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Treasury requesting that immediate steps be taken.