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October 29, 2018 5:30 PM, EDT

Diesel Prices Drop for Second Consecutive Week to $3.355 a Gallon

Diesel Prices Jupiterimages/Getty Images

The average price of diesel dropped for the second consecutive week, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported.

A gallon of on-highway diesel cost $3.355 on Oct. 29, a drop of 2.5 cents from $3.380 the week before, based on a survey of retail fuel stops by the Department of Energy.

Gasoline prices also dropped, but the cost of diesel and gasoline remain elevated compared with a year ago. Diesel is up by more than 50 cents a gallon, and gasoline is higher by more than 32 cents.

U.S. energy analysts expect prices to remain elevated through the end of the year due to uncertainty surrounding the reimposition of U.S. sanctions on Iran and the potential response of members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

In a report published last month, EIA said it expects Brent crude oil prices to average $81 a barrel in the fourth quarter of 2018, up from $79 in September, along with a slightly slower increase in West Texas Intermediate prices, before falling to an average of $79 a barrel in 2019.

With global supply and demand for crude oil tight, any loss of production is likely to keep prices from falling substantially, U.S. analysts said.

In its short term energy outlook, EIA said it expects a decline in Iran’s oil production in 2019 of about 1 million barrels a day and a reduction in the spare production capacity of OPEC from an average of 1.6 million barrels a day to 1.3 million barrels a day.

“This decline creates a market with relatively low spare capacity,” EIA stated.

At the same time, the EIA report said higher crude oil prices likely will lead to increased crude oil production, including a 1 million barrels a day increase in U.S. oil production in 2019.

In the meantime, trucking firms are doing their best to cope with higher costs.

Some, including NFI Industries, are looking at alternatives to diesel as part of a broader commitment to environmental sustainability.

The Cherry Hill, N.J.-based dedicated contract carrier said it plans to operate battery-electric trucks in 2019 in partnership with Daimler Trucks North America and Volvo and will run electric-powered trucks from Tesla and other manufacturers in 2020.

NFI, which operates a fleet of 2,500 tractors and 9,000 trailers, also is testing trucks powered by renewable compressed natural gas and hydrogen fuel cells, plus battery-powered yard tractors and auxiliary power units.

NFI was one of 21 trucking firms recognized last week by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as top-performing carriers as part of its SmartWay Transport Partnership.

“By utilizing EPA’s eight SmartWay emissions metrics, among other key performance indicators, NFI has continually and diligently worked to reduce the environmental impact throughout the fleets we operate,” said Bill Bliem, senior vice president of fleet services at NFI.

NFI ranks No. 17 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of for-hire carriers in North America.

Schneider, a transportation and logistics service provider based in Green Bay, Wis., said it has adopted 20 fuel-efficient features on its tractor-trailers, including low-rolling-resistance tires and trailer skirts, and is evaluating many more, including cameras to replace hood mirrors, ultra-low-viscosity motor oil and alternative fuels.

“Over the past four decades, Schneider has been committed to fuel efficiency, freight consolidation and energy conservation,” said Steve Matheys, executive vice president and chief administrative officer at Schneider. “These measures not only benefit our customers and our business, but they also protect the precious natural resources we all share.”

Schneider ranks No. 7 on the for-hire TT100.