6:00: Morning News

Gas prices rise again, impacting truckers, ahead of Memorial Day weekend

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Travel experts say they don’t expect record gas prices or the COVID-19 pandemic to deter travel this Memorial Day weekend.

Traci Nelson

A lot of people have saved money during the pandemic, so some are willing to pay the extra price. West Virginia’s truckers, on the other hand, are forced to pay regardless.

“Fuel is our industry’s second largest expense, only followed by labor, so these kinds of spikes have a real significant impact on our industry,” said Traci Nelson, president of the West Virginia Truckers Association, on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.’

On Tuesday, AAA reported the statewide average price of diesel fuel is $5.64 a gallon. Regular unleaded gas is $4.46 a gallon in West Virginia, up 10 cents from a week ago, the highest on record.

Patrick DeHaan of GasBuddy.com was also a guest on “Talkline” and said he doesn’t expect prices to drop anytime soon.

“It’s going to be the most expensive Memorial Day weekend we’ve ever seen,” he said. “I don’t expect much relief over the course of the summer either.”

Patrick DeHaan

Much of that has to do with the ongoing war in Ukraine, DeHaan said.

“Consumption of Russian oil will probably continue and that’s going to feed this imbalance between global supply and demand. Unless there’s an improvement between Russia and Ukraine, I don’t see much reason prices would go down,” he explained.

The rising prices are most concerning for small trucking companies who are trying to stay afloat, Nelson said.

“The people with smaller fleets — and 91 percent of trucking companies operate six or fewer trucks, so these people are taking a loss a lot of times because they can’t afford to give up the business,” she said.

Nelson said it could cost jobs within the trucking industry.

“Unfortunately, I think a lot of these smaller companies may end up going out of business because they’re not going to be able to eat the cost of these increased diesel prices,” she said.

Commercial trucks consume more than 45 billion gallons of fuel annually and 80 percent of that is diesel fuel, Nelson noted.

As much as truckers need to pay for fuel to get around, Nelson said they’re also in dire need of drivers.

DeHaan said any disruptions, like hurricanes or other natural disasters, could increase gas prices even more this summer.

“If there’s a major outage or major hurricane that impairs our ability to produce as much gasoline as the market needs — Americans are hitting the road in very high numbers and that’s the concern. Americans haven’t slowed down consumption in the face of high prices and that’s what could lead to a perfect storm,” he said.

Diesel fuel is up about 75 percent from a year ago.

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