Josh Fisher | FleetOwner
Commercial tractors sit idle at a Richfield, Ohio, travel stop.

U.S. diesel flattens, breaking two-week trend of record prices

May 17, 2022
Nationwide average drops a penny, but new indicators emerge about fuel shortages on the East Coast and elsewhere that could add to industry disruption over the cost of trucking’s main fuel.

After two straight weeks when diesel set all-time highs, the U.S. average price for trucking’s main fuel flattened the week of May 16, according to new government data. The nationwide average, in fact, dropped—but only a penny—to $5.613 per gallon.

Though the price surges abated this week, the U.S. average for diesel spiked 11.4 cents the week of May 9 and a whopping 34.9 cents the week of May 2, setting record highs two consecutive weeks. The price of diesel is $2.364 per gallon more expensive nationwide than it was a year ago, according to the data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

See also:  Diesel surges to another record high

Diesel was down on May 16 in two regions of the U.S.—the Midwest (4 cents to $5.346 per gallon) and the Gulf Coast (4.4 cents to $5.295)—and up less than a penny in two others, the Rocky Mountain region and the West Coast, according to the EIA numbers. Even diesel in California, the most expensive place in the nation to buy fuel of any kind, rose but only slightly (1.6 cents to $6.477 per gallon).

The East Coast, which arguably has been the epicenter of recent price spikes, was the only region to see a significant price increase for the week(3.7 cents to $5.944 per gallon), according to EIA. This added to aMay 12 report from two truck stop chains, Love’s and Pilot, that diesel supplies were getting low in that region of the country. But the two chains said they had no plans to restrict purchases. The Financial Times also reported last week that diesel inventories were at their lowest since 2006.

Bad data for fleets, worse news for consumers

Motor club AAA, which monitors the status of diesel and gasoline prices daily and weekly as opposed to EIA’s weekly only updates, also saw the price of U.S. diesel flatten on May 16, up a fraction of a penny from the day before and 2.6 cents from AAA's week-ago average.

AAA and EIA have the price of gas up substantially and about the same amount nationwide. According to AAA, the nationwide average for consumer fuel rose 15 cents for regular (to $4.483), 15.5 cents for mid-grade (to $4.845), and 15.4 cents for premium gas (to $5.132). According to EIA, gasoline was up 16.3 cents per gallon to $4.491 for the week of May 16.

Current signs don’t point to much relief for commercial fleets and consumers from high diesel and gas prices. Some indicators are mixed while others have worsened this week, setting the stage for more volatility.

The per-gallon price of crude oil, West Texas Intermediate and Brent crude, is nearing $115 again, though U.S. crude inventories, excluding the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, are up, according to Oil & Gas Journal, FleetOwner's sister publication. But Bloomberg News also reported that refining capacity is too low to meet the domestic demand for diesel and gasoline, setting the stage for a supply crisis and continued record or near-record prices.

About the Author

Scott Achelpohl | Managing Editor

I'm back to the trucking and transportation track of my career after some time away freelancing and working to cover the branches of the U.S. military, specifically the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and the U.S. Coast Guard. I'm a graduate of the University of Kansas and the William Allen White School of Journalism there with several years of experience inside and outside business-to-business journalism. I'm a wordsmith by nature, and I edit FleetOwner magazine and our website as well as report and write all kinds of news that affects trucking and transportation.

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