Hot fuel issue reaching critical mass

By John Siebert
project team leader
OOIDA Foundation


Every summer is a tough time for small-business truckers. It’s hot, you can’t idle, and fuel prices usually start their annual four-month climb to the summit.

This year, however, prices got a frightening head start on their yearly trek to the peak. Instead of heading to $4 a gallon we started at $4.50.

And, of course, prices aren’t the only things that are heating up. The diesel coming out of the pump nozzles is hitting its annual peak temperature, too.

We’ve had owner-operators call in from all over the country with reports of summertime fuel temperatures, which are well above the 100 degree mark.

At 104 degrees diesel expands in volume to 2 percent more than its volume at the 60-degree mark, which is the petroleum industry’s reference temperature.

And when I say “petroleum industry’s reference temperature,” I mean that every time fuel is sold at the wholesale level, it is temperature-compensated to be the volume it would be at 60 degrees. It is only at the retail level, when you put the nozzle in your tank, that the petroleum industry does not temperature compensate the fuel.

I’ve had truckers tell me that the temperature differential is such a small item that they don’t even want to worry about it. However, as the price per gallon skyrockets into the upper atmosphere, that 1 percent or 2 percent begins to represent more and more money. 

Two hundred gallons at $4 a gallon is $800, and 2 percent of $800 is a $16 loss to you because of expansion. At $5 a gallon it would be $20, and at $5.50 a gallon it would be nearly $25 for every 200-gallon fill-up.

I cannot believe there are owner-operators who feel they owe the petroleum industry this amount of extra money per fill-up.

After all, the petroleum industry uses temperature compensation in wholesale transactions because the parties involved want to get what they pay for and pay for what they get.

The petroleum industry players are demanding fair trade between themselves. We, the American trucking industry, demand and deserve no less. LL