Diesel Climbs 4.2¢ to $3.048 a Gallon

Drivers fuel their trucks at a Pilot Flying J truck stop on Interstate 65 in Shepherdsville, Ky. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

The U.S. average retail price of diesel rose 4.2 cents to $3.048 a gallon, according to the Department of Energy, as crude prices dropped amid pressure from President Donald Trump to keep the price of oil low but remained in flux.

The national average price of diesel is 4.1 cents higher than it was a year ago, when the price was $3.007, DOE said after its Feb. 25 survey of fueling stations.

Average prices for trucking’s main fuel rose in every region, with the largest increase in the Midwest after a 6.5-cent jump to $2.969 a gallon.

Similarly, the U.S. regular gasoline average price rose 7.3 cents to $2.39 a gallon — but is 15.8 cents lower than a year ago, DOE’s Energy Information Administration said.

Crude futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange closed Feb. 25 at $55.16 per barrel compared with $56.09 on Feb. 18. That marked crude’s first drop in nine sessions.

A tweet from Trump coincided with the decline.

“Oil prices getting too high. OPEC, please relax and take it easy. World cannot take a price hike — fragile!” Trump tweeted Feb.25.

Trump’s war of words with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries punctuated big price swings last year, as he pressured the group to keep the taps open to help consumers, according to Bloomberg News.

The president’s comment follows a price rally of about 23% this year due to production cuts from OPEC and its allies, diminishing fears about the economic impact of the U.S.-China trade war and Washington’s imposition of sanctions on Venezuelan oil shipments, according to Bloomberg.

On Feb. 27, oil prices rose by about $2 a barrel as the Saudi Arabia energy minister “really kind of committed to production cuts and probably carrying them through the end of the year,” said Denton Cinquegrana, chief oil analyst at Oil Price Information Service.

That assurance comes as Saudi Arabia has already slashed oil shipments to the United States to a four-week average of just 515,000 barrels a day, down almost 30% from a year ago and approaching the lowest level in a decade, Bloomberg reported.

At the same time, for the week ending Feb. 22, EIA reported U.S. commercial crude oil inventories, excluding the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, decreased by 8.6 million barrels from the previous week.

Cinquegrana called that “a huge draw-down.”

At 445.9 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories are about 3% above the five-year average for this time of year, according to EIA.

As for the latest rise in diesel, it makes sense if you track the rise of oil from Feb. 15-22, when it climbed $1.67 a barrel, Cinquegrana said.

Meanwhile, as fuel prices rise, Cumberland International Trucks is demonstrating that a properly spec’ed truck already can come close to 10 miles per gallon.


A top view of deployed TruckWings. (XStream Trucking)

Its latest spec option for its C10 Class 8 is TruckWings from XStream Trucking Inc.

TruckWings works by automatically deploying panels from the back of the cab to cover the tractor-trailer gap when a truck is at highway speeds, which boosts fuel economy by 4%, according to Redwood City, Calif.-based XStream. The panels then auto-retract at slow speed, allowing for trailer clearance in turns.

The gap is required for turning, but a literal drag on the vehicle the more than 90% of the time it’s driving — using TruckWings means customers can improve the efficiency of their routes, “regardless of the trailer they may be hauling,” said Patrick Mendenhall, fleet sales manager of Cumberland International.

“Technology continues to evolve faster than ever and as Cumberland strives to be the industry leader in fuel economy, it is our job to stay on top of the latest technology for our customers,” he said.

Since 2013, the Nashville truck dealership has been offering prospective customers the chance to drive for an extended period an over-the-road tractor, first a ProStar and now an LT model powered by a Cummins X15 engine and Eaton 10-speed transmission, with several readily available aerodynamic features, plus a collision avoidance system and auxiliary power unit.

A fleet test of the C10 truck in December covered 4,891 miles and achieved an overall fuel efficiency of 9.30 mpg, increasing to 9.71 mpg in top gear, in which the truck traveled for 93% of the distance, according to an engine control module summary of the trip.

The industry’s generally accepted average fuel mileage is 6.5 mpg.