ARLINGTON, Va. — The American Trucking Associations (ATA) is calling on the Biden administration to take immediate steps to boost domestic energy production as gasoline and diesel fuel prices soar on the heels of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
However, there was some cause for hope late Thursday as benchmark U.S. crude oil for April delivery fell $2.68 to $106.02 a barrel Thursday. Brent crude for May delivery fell $1.81 to $109.33 a barrel.
But any relief at the pump won’t likely be seen for at least a couple of weeks, according to industry analysists. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average price for a gallon of diesel fuel in the U.S. is still hovering right at $5 per gallon.
In a letter sent Thursday afternoon to the White House, the ATA outlined specific actions the U.S. can take to provide relief at the pump for motor carriers and motorists across the country.
Fuel is the second largest operating expense for trucking fleets, and surging diesel prices threaten to decimate trucking capacity at a time when the supply chain is already under extreme stress.
“The trucking industry is the backbone of the American economy, moving 73 percent of our nation’s freight, or 10 billion tons of goods annually,” wrote Chris Spear, president and CEO of ATA, in the organization’s letter to Biden.
“Our ability to do so on a cost-efficient basis for our customers throughout the supply chain depends on certain economic conditions, including fuel prices, which are typically a fleet’s second highest operating expense. Right now, escalating fuel prices are driving up the transportation cost of all goods, adding yet another layer of inflationary pressure on every sector throughout the entire economy.”
Spear wrote that the impact is particularly hard on the 97 percent of motor carriers that operate 20 trucks or fewer and are designated as small businesses.
“These fleets do not operate at a scale necessary to negotiate lower fuel prices or to offset costs from shippers,” Spear stated in the letter.
“Lacking the financial reserves to weather this storm, many of these companies are at risk of failing given current projections for global crude prices over the next 12 months. This would decimate U.S. trucking capacity, unleashing catastrophic consequences for a supply chain that’s already overstressed.”
Spear wrote that increasing oil and natural gas production in the U.S. would “help bring down domestic fuel prices, providing immediate relief to our nation’s supply lines. We cannot let an energy crisis compound the supply chain crisis, and we have the power and resources to prevent that from happening.”
Specifically, ATA calls on the administration to:
- Expedite onshore and offshore oil and natural gas permitting to spur expanded production;
- Initiate immediate lease sales in current production areas in the Central and Western Gulf of Mexico;
- Encourage expedited carbon capture & sequestration rulemaking to ensure that America remains the world’s leader in carbon reduction technology development;
- Work with both domestic and international oil and natural gas producing nations to help reduce global oil prices; and
- Consider timed releases from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
In 2019, commercial trucks consumed 46 billion gallons of diesel and gasoline. Motor carriers spent $112 billion on diesel fuel that year, when the annual cost of diesel ranged between $2.97 and $3.17 per gallon. This week, the U.S. Department of Energy reported the national average diesel fuel price at $4.85 per gallon as of March 7—the highest price in U.S. history. Diesel fuel prices on the West Coast are extraordinarily high, with an average price of $5.76 per gallon in California.
More than half the cost of a gallon of diesel fuel is attributed to the price of crude. Crude prices are now well over $100 per barrel, with forecasters predicting $185 per barrel by year’s end.
“These trend lines are not sustainable for the trucking industry and signal a major warning for the supply chain,” Spear wrote to the president.
“We cannot afford to ignore our nation’s current energy needs in a fog of partisan idealism about the future of energy use. The trucking industry supports an all-of-the-above approach when it comes to securing our energy future. But the transition to cleaner and renewable fuels over the horizon requires a practical, actionable bridge in the here-and-now, beginning with the abundant sources readily available at home.”
Spear concluded: “Taken together and immediately, the actions outlined above would bring immediate relief at the pump for America’s truckers and all motorists. ATA stands ready to assist you in keeping our economy and nation united, connected and strong.”
The Trucker News Staff produces engaging content for not only TheTrucker.com, but also The Trucker Newspaper, which has been serving the trucking industry for more than 30 years. With a focus on drivers, the Trucker News Staff aims to provide relevant, objective content pertaining to the trucking segment of the transportation industry. The Trucker News Staff is based in Little Rock, Arkansas.