Supply chain expert: Rising diesel prices hitting truck drivers hard now, consumers this summer

MEBANE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Fuel prices are back on the rise in North Carolina.

On average, the price for a gallon of regular is sitting at $3.94, which is a 12-cent increase in the last week.

"Global supply concerns are keeping upward pressure on oil prices," said Tiffany Write, AAA spokesperson. "Since it accounts for about 60% of what drivers pay at gas stations -- volatility at the pump is likely to continue through the summer travel season."

Diesel prices, meantime, are at an all-time high of $5.32 a gallon and it's hitting truck drivers hard.

Tommy Davis filled up his big rig in Mebane for $5.79 a gallon; it cost him $1,300 and he'll have to fill up twice more on his trip to Fort Collins, Colorado.

"For a small company, owner operator, we can't keep doing it," he said. "The prices of everything is going up because everything moves with trucks."

Diesel is known as the fuel that moves America's economy.

"The goods that we buy and purchase, they flow through the supply chain in trucks, on boats, in planes that are fueled by diesel," said Tim Kraft, NC State University Operations and Supply Chain Management professor. "So, when you see that diesel price goes up, the shipping cost goes up, which then translates to a higher cost of goods for the items that they're shipping so those higher costs are pushed onto us the consumer so we see higher prices that impact our wallet."

Kraft said soaring prices are tied to a shortage brought on by Russia's war in Ukraine and market-damaging mandates put on diesel fuel before the war broke out.

With the busy summer travel season now getting underway, Kraft does not see relief in sight.

"I really worry about the small business owner, the small trucking company," he said. "These levels that we're seeing-- the costs they're having to pay -- their margins are being cut in half. And it's just not sustainable when you're a small business and you're seeing this much volatility."

For drivers like Davis and Darryl Matthews of Durham, the rising diesel prices are already taking a toll on their livelihoods.

"It's affecting everything that we do because the truck comes first and then what's left is ours and there's not enough left; between the fuel, the tires, the maintenance on the truck and trailer, there's not enough left," he said. "So it's affecting home life, everything else."

"Anything we do, our overhead is already but so high and then you add the high fuel prices on top of that, what do you bring home after that?" said Matthews. You count your pennies and you count your blessings and that's about it."
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