Fuel Price Volatility Continues to Pose Challenges for Supply Chain Managers

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Diesel prices shot up nearly 10 cents to $4.022 this week, according to the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The 9.5 cent gain represents the largest weekly increase since the price moved up 6 cents to $4.034 the week of November 11, and it is the first time weekly prices topped the $4 per gallon mark since reaching $4.027 the week of December 3.

Prices have risen a cumulative 12.8 cents over the last three weeks. Prior to that, prices had been down for seven straight weeks, falling a cumulative 14 cents during that span, and for 12 of the previous 13 weeks.

Since reaching a more than four-year weekly high of $4.15 per gallon the week of October 15, diesel prices have gone down a cumulative 13.2 cents. What’s more, prices have been below the $4 per gallon mark for eight consecutive weeks prior to this week.

The average price per gallon is up 16.6 cents compared to a year ago at this time and ahead of the 7.7 cent annual gap from a week ago.

In its recently updated short-term energy outlook, the EIA is calling for diesel prices to average $3.97 per gallon in 2012 and $3.84 in 2013, with WTI crude oil is expected to hit $94.26 per barrel in 2012 and $88.38 in 2013.

As previously reported, 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.


About the Author

Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [email protected]

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