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US: Truckers hit by soaring diesel costs

U.S. gas prices up, too: But Atlanta enjoying the lowest average, Lundberg Survey shows.

Russell Grantham - Staff

Tuesday, September 12, 2000

While Atlanta may have some of the lowest gasoline prices in the country, truckers are the ones now feeling the pinch as diesel fuel prices shoot up.

But the commuters' reprieve may be short-lived as both gasoline and diesel prices are rising again nationwide. Diesel fuel is becoming more expensive because seasonal demand for heating oil often affects the price of diesel, a similar product that has been refined to remove more sulfur.

"Heating oil inventories are so low that there may be some occasion to use diesel as heating oil," even though it is generally more expensive, said Doug MacIntyre, an oil industry analyst for the Energy Information Administration. Diesel fuel prices have been heading back into record territory over the past week as refineries struggle to rebuild heating oil supplies for this winter.

Atlanta diesel is $1.52 a gallon now, compared with $1.41 a month ago and $1.14 a year ago, according to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report. The national average for diesel is $1.64 a gallon, up 15 cents from a month ago, according to AAA. The national average was $1.24 a gallon a year ago.

"The demand for (heating) oil is just starting to pick up," lamented Todd Spencer, executive vice president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. "We are bracing to see diesel prices increase 30 percent or more" this winter, he said.

Diesel prices topped $2.50 a gallon last winter in some parts of New England because of competing demand for heating oil. Diesel is already over $2 a gallon in some parts of California because of supply disruptions, he added.

He predicted that small trucking firms --- already weakened by intense competition and high fuel prices this year --- will fail in even greater numbers this winter.

"What will happen is there will be more truckers failing sooner than last year," he said.

Meanwhile, the average national price of regular gasoline has risen more than 7 cents a gallon over the past month, to about $1.56 a gallon, according to AAA. Atlanta gasoline prices are up less than a penny a gallon during the same period, at $1.40.

Atlanta had the lowest average gasoline price in Lundberg Survey's poll of 10,000 service stations released Sunday, $1.39 a gallon.

-- Carl Jenkins (, September 12, 2000

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