And you though that SUV was bad...

You think you have it bad with $4 a gallon gas prices? Consider the plight of an independent truck driver. The average class 8 tractor-trailer rig travels 45,000 miles per year. Average fuel economy is just 5 miles per gallon. This is why trucking firms are looking hard at some of the technologies in this story that can help improve fleet efficiency.

(Here's one low-tech development that didn't make it into that story that may become increasingly common: Giant, double-wide tires that reduce rolling resistance and improve mileage. But back to the point:)

Five years ago diesel was at $1.48 a gallon. Total cost for fuel per year: $13,320.

Three years ago the price was $2.799 a gallon. Annual costs went up 89% to $25,191.00.

Last week the local price for diesel was 4.89.9 per gallon, a 75% jump in annual costs to $44,091.00.

The typical truck driver is now paying $30,771.00 more than he was five years ago, just for fuel - more than double.

Now look at the nationwide economic impact. All class 8 big rigs combined travelled 139.3 billion miles last year. At 5 mpg that comes to 27.6 billion gallons of diesel fuel per year.

Five years ago the industry’s aggregate cost for fuel came to $40 billion.

Three years ago it was $76 billion.

At current prices the annual drag on the economy will be $133 billion just in transportation fuel costs – a whopping $93 billion more than five years ago.

Becuase nearly everything in this country moves by truck, those costs are propagating out in the form of higher food and merchandise costs.

Much of the merchandize sold in the U.S. arrives from China in Long Beach and other ports on the West Coast and is hauled by truck from there.

Shipping surcharges are hitting retailers furthest away - in the Northeast - hard. In some cases consumers pay more. In other cases retailers are eating the entire difference. One retailer tells me that he paid a surcharge on a shipment of 1,000 Crocs that amounted to $1 per pair – and he can’t pass on the increase due to competition and weak sales.

The situation in the Northeast is even worse for another form of diesel - #2 fuel oil - which is hovering around $4.50 a gallon. It's been as high as $4.60. Some estimates have it topping $6 per gallon this winter. Those prices are sending calculated average annual fuel bills here in New Hampshire into the $5,000 to $10,000 range. With few alternatives (there aren't a whole lot of natural gas pipelines to the Northeast), it could be a disastrous winter in New England.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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