The trucking industry, which is still grappling with supply chain issues and worker shortages, is feeling the pressure as gas prices reach record levels in Minnesota. According to AAA, the average regular gas price as of June 9 climbed to $4.72 with diesel currently at $5.42.
John Hausladen, president of the Minnesota Trucking Association, said high fuel prices have trickled down to just about everyone.
“Minnesota runs on trucking, trucking runs on diesel. When diesel goes up, everyone’s affected — from the average consumer to the small fleet to the largest fleet and everyone in between,” said Hausladen.
Hausladen noted that on average, a truck can hold up to 300 gallons of fuel. Trucks get about seven miles per gallon and travel about 125,000 miles a year. Under the current diesel price, one truck could use approximately $96,785 worth of fuel per year, an increase of about $35,000 over past years.
Unfortunately, fuel prices and trucking company failures do track in parallel. Hausladen said when gas prices spike, some small companies, drivers, and owner operators take an exit.
“Sometimes they just say, ‘I don’t want to have my own company anymore; I’m just going to be an employee driver.’ It gets back to the shortage. There are plenty of truck driving jobs so whether you want to be your own company owner or you want to drive for someone else, you can always find a job and they’re good-paying jobs now driving a truck,” Hausladen explained.
The worker shortage in the trucking industry has been an ongoing issue for years with about 80,000 openings nationwide and more than 52,000 openings in Minnesota, according to Hausladen.
“There’s some good news on the horizon in that the last federal highway bill has an apprenticeship program for a pilot to look at allowing younger drivers ages 18, 19, and 20 to get into these trucks,” he explained. “There’s never been a school-to-work program, so we’re excited about that and that’s something our organization has actively lobbied for.”
Given that trucks move 72% of American freight, a lack of drivers can cause substantial disruptions. If there are not enough truckers to deliver goods, consumers will continue to see empty shelves. However, Hausladen pointed out that trucks themselves have been sidelined because they too are missing parts.
“There are trucks at assembly plants right now that are missing sensor chips or fuel injectors or brake drums because, well, if you don’t have a brake you can’t roll that truck. So, these shortages have been flaring up and down based on different types of products,” said Hausladen.
While trucking companies can’t control the price of fuel, there are a few ways to save on fuel expenses. Hausladen said companies are always monitoring diesel costs, consumption, and emissions. Often, truck drivers will find the most efficient routes with the best price on fuel.
“We have optimization software that fleets use to determine actually where’s the best place to buy fuel based on pricing because it is such a huge component,” Hausladen added.
Despite the record high gas prices, Hausladen reminded us that the industry has been through hard times before and it is not the time to panic.
“Some things may be slower; some things may take time. We’re going to get the job done, that’s what we do,” Hausladen said. “I don’t think we need to worry about that, but I do think ‘patience’ is the watch word of the day.”
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that one truck could use $677,500 worth of fuel per year. The correct number is $96,785.