A tank of diesel fuel for truck drivers could cost about $1,000 right now

Costs typically passed on to consumers

CINCINNATI — Leaders of the trucking industry say store prices are expected to increase as the national average for diesel fuel hits $4.75.

Truck drivers filling up in Florence, Ky. on Tuesday spent nearly $1,000 on fuel. Ben Lee, who has been driving semis for 16 years, said it’s tough to keep rolling under these conditions.

“I mean, you can see right now, I’m getting 60 gallons for $300 dollars,” Lee said. “We’re just going to have to bite it for now and just eat the extra costs.”

Kevin Burch, the former chairman of the American Trucking Association, runs a fleet of 100 semis in the region through Martin Transportation Systems. He said independent drivers and trucking companies set their own fuel surcharge and add it on to the price companies pay them to ship products.

It’s a tool designed to compensate drivers for fluctuating diesel prices.

“It definitely is passed on to the consumer in higher freight rates,” Burch said.

Burch said he predicts customers will see the prices increase at the stores next.

“Could be a week, could be two weeks,” said Burch.

At the same time, drivers say the current fuel price hike came unexpectedly. They said their current surcharges did not account for that, so they will have to wait to recoup costs.

“It’s going to be tough for the small independent owner/operators out there who are trying to move America’s goods,” Burch said. “They just might say, you know what, I’m just going to park it for a few days, maybe a week, and see what happens rather than pay that big price.”

It comes at a time when the U.S. is already experiencing a driver shortage that can cause shipping delays. That coupled with inflation and the pandemic is taking a toll on drivers.

“Everybody is, like, emotionally fatigued, you know,” Lee said. “Everybody is trying to sort, trying to protect their mental health because it was rough. Then, you go right into this,” said Lee.

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