Fuel prices are like air temperatures: They're constantly changing, rarely the same from one moment to the next. Sometimes they're quite high, like during the summer driving season. As demand dips heading into fall, the prices typically follow suit.
But when it comes to the cost of diesel, prices have remained white hot, with the national average consistently higher than $5 per gallon for all of 2022, reaching as much as $5.75 in June, according to the the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
And it looks as though diesel prices will remain elevated for what's left of 2022 and heading into the new year.
According to the EIA's latest energy outlook, average diesel prices throughout the U.S. are expected to be north of $5 per gallon for the rest of the fourth quarter and at least the first few months of 2023. While the government agency said the cost of fuel — both gasoline as well as diesel — may dip slightly next year due to a deepening recession, the reduction likely won't be substantial enough to push the average lower than $5.
Rising energy costs have been a persistent challenge for motor carriers this year. While the average was $3.29 for a gallon of diesel in 2021, the price has more than doubled that amount in certain parts of the country in 2022, especially on the West Coast. Although some commercial trucks run on unleaded gasoline, the vast majority use diesel, which consistently costs at least a dollar more than traditional gas on a per-gallon basis.
The issue has become so deep seated among motor carriers of all sizes, it was cited as the single biggest challenge for the industry at large, according to the American Transportation Research Institute's latest Critical Issues in Trucking report. The driver shortage had been the No. 1 concern for employers, cited as such in five consecutive reports.
Tips to help you offset the cost of fuel
While it's unclear how much higher diesel prices will rise, it's clear that pain at the pump will continue. Here are a few ways you can rein in how much you're spending on fuel:
Check your tires frequently
Ensuring that all of your trucks' tires are properly inflated improves gas mileage by reducing the amount of surface area between the road and the tires. Underinflating tires increases surface area so the tires take slightly longer to complete a single rotation. While the difference in air pressure may seem miniscule, it adds up when you have multiple trucks with 18 or more tires on each.
Consider imposing a fuel surcharge
Depending on the types of customers you have and how the contracts are set up, you may want to think about adding a fuel surcharge to your billing statements. Determining the proper amount to charge is up to you but the general rule of thumb is to divide $1 by however many miles your truck gets for each gallon it consumes.
Consolidate as much as you can
If there's any way you can deliver the same goods in one truck as opposed to two, do it. You may have to do some planning ahead of time to see if consolidating is feasible but it's worthwhile if you can kill two birds with one stone.
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