Here's a sobering thought: It would take an increase of just 3 percent over current projections to push the motor carrier industry's aggregate 2006 fuel bill to the $100 billion mark. The most recent forecast from the American Trucking Associations (ATA) shows that motor carriers will likely spend $98.3 billion on fuel this year. That figure represents a 12-percent increase over the truckers' 2005 fuel bill of $87.7 billion.
ATA President Bill Graves says fuel now represents the second-highest operating expense for many motor carriers and accounts for as much as 25 percent of total operating costs. That's bad news for both truckers and the economy as a whole. "An affordable supply of diesel fuel is imperative to keep our trucks moving," he says. "We are not recreational vehicles. We have to be out there delivering the goods that America and our economy are demanding."
The ATA says fuel prices could rise even higher in 2006 because of the introduction of ultra low sulfur diesel, which is scheduled to hit the market midyear. "Ultra low" costs more to refine and distribute than traditional diesel fuel. That $100 billion mark's looking more likely all the time.