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April 29, 2019 4:45 PM, EDT

Diesel Increases 2.2¢ to $3.169 a Gallon

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The U.S. average retail price of diesel climbed 2.2 cents to $3.169 a gallon, as crude stabilized around $63 per barrel, the U.S. Department of Energy reported April 29.

Diesel costs 1.2 cents more than it did a year ago, when the price was $3.157 per gallon, the DOE said.

Regional diesel prices rose everywhere, with the sharpest increase in the Rocky Mountain region, where the average price climbed 4 cents a gallon to $3.183. Still, that is 3.2 cents fewer than a year ago.

U.S. gasoline rose 4.6 cents to $2.889 a gallon. That is 4.1 cents higher than a year ago.

Gasoline rose in all regions, most sharply in New England, where prices jumped 8.7 cents a gallon to $2.824.

Meanwhile, crude flipped between gains and losses as a severe crackdown on Iranian oil exports ticked closer, according to Bloomberg News. West Texas Intermediate for June delivery closed on April 30 at $63.470 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

U.S. and international oil prices erased gains after a surprise jump in U.S. crude inventories allayed some concerns that rising violence in Venezuela is threatening supplies, Bloomberg reported. Crude futures dipped April 30 after the American Petroleum Institute readied a report claiming a 6.81 million barrel increase in stockpiles last week, well above estimates in a Bloomberg survey.

Prices had advanced earlier in the day after Venezuelan opposition forces clashed with police in the streets of Caracas, escalating tensions in the home of the world’s biggest crude reserves.

Yet in Iran, U.S. exemptions that allowed China and several other major buyers to purchase Iranian oil were set to expire May 2, cutting off supplies from OPEC’s No. 4 producer, Bloomberg reported. Oil touched a six-month high in late April after the White House announced the end of sanctions exemptions on Iranian crude.

But Venezuela for now overshadowed Iran as a possible cause for oil and diesel prices to rise, said Phil Flynn, an oil analyst with the Price Futures Group of Chicago.

“In Venezuela, there is talk of a coup,” Flynn told Transport Topics. “But the good news is that if they oust President Nicolas Maduro, the oil production could rise to 3 million barrels a day.”

Diesel Increases 2.2 cents to $31.69 a Gallon

Maduro

Maduro has been leader of oil-rich Venezuela since 2013. His recent re-election has been disputed by the United States and opposition groups.

Venezuela was a founding member of OPEC.

Flynn said a key concern is the fact that Venezuelan crude oil is heavier, and therefore a better source material for diesel. If supplies from Venezuela further dwindle, as they have under Maduro, diesel prices could be pressured upward.

The fluctuation and uncertainty in oil and diesel price has led to a growth in software analysis of fuel usage by trucking firms. In San Francisco, tech firm KeepTruckin offers fleets a telematics system that lets them know how and when fuel is being used, and even reminds drivers and fleets when an issue arises, according to Seth Spiel, KeepTruckin’s head of product for telematics.

“If a driver is idling his truck too long, we can send a note to the driver or fleet manager,” Spiel said. “Doing simple nudges has a very positive impact.”

Back at a fleet’s headquarters, data is sent from KeepTruckin’s telematics system to managers about how much is spent, and where. If fleets spend a lot at a particular vendor, loyalty programs are suggested, Spiel said.

The company is still working on improving data, Spiel said, using a team of Ph.D.s to fine tune the analysis.

Spiel said it is particularly important to compare apples to apples in fuel usage. For example, Spiel said, a 10-year-old truck hauling over Minnesota hills in icy weather should not be compared to a new, fuel-efficient truck driving through a flat part of Texas in warm weather.