Using logistics software to meet delivery deadlines throughout the year can help fleet managers in the fuel transport industry keep prices low for all stakeholders. The record cold temperatures that have lingered throughout many parts of the U.S. this season have had an indirect influence on utility bills at households and businesses.
For instance, property owners and renters have had to heat their buildings more often than usual this winter to stay warm during frequent periods of subzero temperatures. As a result, demand for natural gas has grown sharply in the first two months of this year. When demand is high, the freight companies responsible for transporting fuel to suppliers throughout the country often incur large overhead costs. When the weather is so bad that it creates unsafe conditions on highways, it can be even more difficult for commercial carriers to deliver enough fuel on time.
Utilities companies struggle to keep gas prices low
This has led to a significant boost in consumer-end gas prices in many regions. According toCrain's Chicago Business, Peoples Gas, a major utility serving the Chicago region, will ask its customers to front a larger portion of their gas bills in March to reflect to the many challenges associated with this particularly cold winter. In fact, the price for consumers will increase nearly 80 percent, from 53 cents per therm in February to 93 cents per therm in March. The publication reported that the company is also filing a request to state regulators in Illinois to allow an extra delivery rate hike to customers, which, if approved, would send the average monthly gas bill in regional households to nearly $100.
Peoples Gas claimed these price jumps will only be temporary. The company is taking long-term steps to improve the overall reliability of its services.
"We are committed to investing in modernizing the system and maintaining a strong workforce to provide our customers with natural gas service they can count on," Will Evans Jr., president of Peoples Gas, stated in a press release. "Replacing and maintaining the infrastructure now will also result in cost savings and benefits for customers over time."
The Chicago region isn't the only area of the U.S. experiencing these problems. The entire natural gas industry has struggled to access the kind of consistent transportation needed to keep up with both the demand for and the rapid production of fuel products. A recent article from Reutersreported that U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has publicly acknowledged the fact that the domestic oil and gas boom has actually outpaced the development of the necessary infrastructure to support its many logistical needs. Because of this, Moniz stated that the federal government will focus heavily on making it easier for companies to move natural gas and other products around the country more easily.
While the U.S. prepares these improvements, fleet owners in the oil and gas industry can do their part to keep costs as low as possible by investing in technology such as transportation software. Using automated systems to speed up the otherwise complicated process of scheduling deliveries and planning routes can not only save time, but it can also allow these companies to make smarter decisions regarding budget use.