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Diesel prices fall for the third straight week

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
March 19, 2013

Like the saying goes, what goes up must come down. That appears to be the case with diesel prices over the past three weeks, with the average price per gallon of diesel declining for the third straight week, according to the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Following declines of 4.2 cents and 2.9 cents, respectively, over the last two weeks, the EIA reported that diesel prices this week dipped 4.1 cents to $4.047 per gallon. Over the last three weeks, priced have dropped a cumulative 11.2 cents.

Before this current three-week stretch of declines, prices rose a cumulative 26.5 cents over a six week span.

During the week of February 25, the average price per gallon hit $4.159 per gallon, which marked the highest point for diesel prices since hitting $4.207 per gallon the week of August 18, 2008. The preceding week’s tally of $4.157 from the week of February 18 was the previous high point, topping the then-recent high of $4.116 from the week of October 22.

On an annual basis, the average price per gallon is down 9.5 cents, compared to a 3.5 cent gap last week, and the previous three weeks up 3.6 cents, 10.8 cents, and 19.7 cents, respectively.

Last week, the EIA updated its short-term energy outlook. It is now calling for diesel prices to average $3.90 per gallon in 2013 (down from $3.92) and $3.80 in 2014 (down from $3.82), with WTI crude oil now pegged at $91.92 in 2013 (up from $92.81) and the 2014 forecast remaining unchanged at $92.17.

Regardless of the fluctuation in diesel prices, shippers are cognizant of the impact diesel prices can have on their bottom line—for better or worse.

And they continue to be proactive on that front, too, by taking steps to reduce mileage and transit lengths when possible as well as cut down on empty miles.

And even through shippers want to adjust budgets in order to offset the increased costs higher fuel prices bring, it is not always an easy thing to manage.

The focus from a supply chain management perspective, according to shippers, is more on utilization and efficiency by doing things like driving empty miles out of transportation networks.

Shippers have told LM that adjusting budgets is only part of the solution when it comes to dealing—and living—with fuel price fluctuation. 

This was evident in the results of a recent Logistics Management reader study, which polled 420 respondents on their diesel spend.

Nearly 16 percent (15.5) of respondents said that their average fuel surcharge is less than 5 percent above base rates, and 13.8 percent said it was 6-to-10 percent higher. And 14.5 percent said it was 11-to-15 percent higher, with 11.9 percent indicating it was 16-to-20 percent higher. More than 30 percent—33.3 percent—said it was more than 20 percent higher, and 11 percent said they were unsure.

When asked if they expect to pay higher fuel surcharges in the coming months, 39.1 percent of the LM survey respondents said yes, with 44.1 percent saying they did not expect to, and 16.8 percent unsure.

And if fuel prices rise in the coming months, 67 percent said they would raise or adjust their freight budgets to cover higher than budgeted for fuel prices and 33 percent saying they would take no action. 

A transportation sustainability expert told LM that increases in diesel prices are reflective of the changes and challenges taking place within the global economy.

“As China demands more oil for their growing economy; tensions remain high in the Middle East; OPEC reduces output in an attempt to increase the price of a barrel of oil; the U.S. chooses not to build new refineries or approve the required pipeline infrastructure to take advantage of all available fuel sources; and exporting of fuel and Liquid Natural Gas continues at a slow pace, corporations will be challenged by fluctuating fuel costs,” said Brittain Ladd, a global supply chain consultant. “To minimize the impact of fuel costs, corporations need to refocus their efforts to collaborate with their trucking providers to ensure that every effort is being made to maximize equipment utilization, reduce out-of-route miles, and take advantage of fuel programs that identify the lowest diesel prices.”

Ladd also pointed out that longer term strategies continue to include optimizing logistics networks and distribution/replenishment strategies that will minimize transportation. In addition, he said corporations need to be proactive in pushing for LNG as an alternative to diesel when possible and an increase in the number of trailers that can be pulled by a tractor.

The price per barrel for oil is at $93.74 on the New York Mercantile Exchange at press time.

About the Author

Jeff Berman headshot
Jeff Berman
Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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Article Topics

News · EIA · Diesel Prices · All topics

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