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February 22, 2016 4:00 PM, EST
Diesel Bumps Up Three-Tenths a Cent to $1.983
John Sommers II for TT

The national average retail price of diesel fuel climbed ever so slightly, ending 14 consecutive declines, the Department of Energy reported..

Diesel rose three-tenths of a cent to $1.983 on Feb. 22, based on DOE’s weekly survey of fueling stations. Before the increase, diesel had fallen 50.2 cents over 14 consecutive weeks.

Trucking's main fuel is 91.7 cents a gallon cheaper than a year ago, when it was $2.90.

Diesel rose seven-tenths of a cent to $2.05 in the West Coast less California area. It also was up 1.3 cents to $1.921 in the Midwest and 1.5 cents to $1.873 in the Gulf Coast zone.

Diesel was lowest in Rocky Mountain area, dropping five-tenths of a cent to $1.861. It was highest in California, where it dropped 2.8 cents but stood at $2.288.

DOE’s Energy Information Administration also on Feb. 22 reported the average price of gasoline rose six-tenths of a cent to $1.73.

Gasoline is 60.2 cents cheaper than it was a year ago, when the price was $2.332.

The fuel rose in the Midwest, climbing 8.7 cents to $1.609. That still was the second-lowest regional average, trailing the Gulf Coast, where the price fell two-tenths of a cent to $1.526.

On Feb. 22, crude oil futures crept above $30 a barrel, closing at $30.72 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, up from $29.64 on Feb. 19.

Bloomberg News said oil rose amid speculation that a production freeze by some OPEC members and Russia eventually could help to abate the surplus. Russia said talks on an output freeze will be done by March 1, while Nigeria said some countries should have production capped at higher levels.

Al Nunes, president of truckload carrier A.C. Trucking Inc. in Manteca, California, told Transport Topics he was “by all means” surprised at the steady trend of lower diesel prices this year and last.

“I never thought we’d see diesel prices below $3 a gallon again. Obviously, I was wrong. It’s nice, but it will last as long as the flood of oil is there,” Nunes said.

A.C. Trucking serves California and seven Western states. It also provides drayage from Northern California intermodal rail ramps.

Nunes said, as the lower cost of fuel took hold, fuel surcharges fell, too. So the lower price “really hasn’t made a whole lot of difference in net margins.”

Nunes added where he has a problem is with large shippers that use the national average retail diesel price to set surcharges. “And here we are in California with 30 cents-plus above the national average. That’s always a difficult thing for us to deal with. They tell us to raise our rates to accommodate the cost. But then we’d be noncompetitive with others bidding.”

He said he deals with that situation by “continually reminding [shippers] what the price of fuel is in California over and above national average.”

That is effective in some cases, but sometimes “we decide we don’t want to haul for them.”