While high gas prices are rough on car owners, the high price of diesel fuel is catastrophic to an entire industry: trucking. Recently, truckers staged a slowdown to protest those high prices; some are starting to lose their businesses already, and the trend may continue for a while.
This is something we need to think about seriously. It’s terrible to pay four dollars a gallon for ordinary gas in our cars, even though our smaller, lighter vehicles drive limited distances. But most of our fuel costs don’t come from personal use; they come secondarily, in the form of getting our food, clothing, and almost everything we use to the store so we can buy it. Higher fuel prices threaten the price of everything.
Diesel semi truck drivers have been hit worse than any other group by high fuel prices. While the average car gets between 20 and 25 miles to the gallon, a diesel semi truck driven carefully is likely to get no more than one mile to the gallon when fully loaded, and maybe about five when driven empty or trailerless. This is bad on any trucking company, but particularly hard on the gypsy truck drivers, who get most of our produce to market.
Think about that for a minute. The relative cost of getting your head of lettuce to the store has roughly doubled. Considering how cheap it is to grow the lettuce today, that means you’re going to see a pretty good rise in prices for lettuce too. While many things in your produce section are shipped long distances, a lot of them come from nearby farms, and those short-haul drivers have to pay for diesel fuel out of their own pockets.
The long haul drivers aren’t in much better shape. In some cases, they’re finding themselves short of cash to pay for diesel, even though they’ll be reimbursed; in others, the price of diesel fuel is cutting directly into per-mile payment and bonuses. Some companies are having a lot of loads canceled when shippers find out the new higher prices, forcing more empty loads than usual, which again impacts every load price as haulers try to make up the difference.
It’s not just transportation companies that are feeling the pinch. Farming equipment uses mostly diesel fuel. Construction heavy equipment generally uses diesel fuel as well. Ships, trains, buses and older submarines, all use diesel fuel. That means national defense costs more; public transportation and inexpensive rail shipping cost more; water shipping costs more; even the food you eat and the homes you live in cost more due to the costs of producing them, let alone the cost to transport them.
The cost of diesel fuel is not traceable to a single simple cause; it’s a complex issue. With China online and growing rapidly, there’s a new strain on world fuel supplies. Russian developments leave the worldwide cost of fuel high as well, and the Middle East and other oil-producing nations refuse or are unable to produce more petrodiesel, the primary source of diesel fuel today. But petroleum isn’t the only source of diesel; in fact, diesel can be produced from garbage, sewage, and wood. Some people are slightly converting engines and burning old French-fry oil and other bio-oil wastes instead of commercial petrodiesel.
Still, the supply remains lower than the demand, and will for the foreseeable future unless some serious changes are made to our diesel fuel supply train. As individuals, however, there are things we can do to provide ourselves with at least a partial supply of diesel fuel for our own purposes.
Before you buy a Diesel Truck, you must read this. Stop wasting you time with High Cost of Diesel Fuel.