Why diesel prices are driving up the cost of everything

Why consumers can blame diesel fuel for rising prices
Why consumers can blame diesel fuel for rising prices

Consumers notice spiking gasoline prices every time they drive to the pump. But energy industry analysts say the current spike in diesel prices is historic — and is pushing up the cost of all kinds of goods.

Diesel prices are hovering around all-time highs, forced upward by the same circumstances that have fueled gasoline's rise.

"The price of diesel is probably the bigger headline here," said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy.

Nearly everything people buy is at some point freighted in a vehicle powered by a diesel engine. Ships and barges, trains, trucks and even some airplanes run on diesel fuel.

Diesel hit an all-time high of $5.135 on March 12, according to AAA. As of April 27, the price was only slightly lower at $5.093.

That increase is hitting consumer prices hard, says Moody's Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi, who notes that diesel has had a significant factor in rising inflation.

It is also hitting truckers hard. Truckers who used to spend about $10,000 a week on fuel now are spending closer to $18,000 a week.

Freight industry analysts suspect the very fragmented and volatile trucking industry will likely experience another severe recession. Some are even calling it a "bloodbath."

"We see when fuel surges as much as it has over the past couple of months, that's usually when we see a lot of trucking bankruptcies follow," said Craig Fuller, founder and CEO of Freightwaves, an industry data tracker.

That amounts to bad news for the nearly 2 million trucking companies in America, the vast majority of which are small businesses with just a handful of trucks.

"These small operators that live essentially on the cash flow of their trucking operations are not prepared and don't have the balance sheets or the cash position to absorb these instantaneous shocks to their cash flow," Fuller said.

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