Fuel prices continue to climb

Problems at gas pumps across the nation have resulted in higher expenses for both consumers and fleets. Fuel prices rose steadily in the early days of 2013. The Wall Street Journal reported on February 19 they hit their 32nd consecutive day of increases. Prices are now at a four-month high, making the national average for gas around $3.73. FleetOwner reported diesel prices have shot up to more than $4 per gallon, making it more expensive to transport cargo.

Prices on the rise 
Fuel prices typically rise in the spring and summer as refineries switch over to the summer blend, a more expensive type of fuel that is supposed to limit harmful emissions. However, it's still too early in the year for gas prices to be rising due to new blend production. CNBC reported Hurricane Sandy could have contributed to the higher prices, as the storm severely damaged refineries on the East Coast and many repairs have yet to be completed. Demand is also typically lower during the winter months, which caused the industry to slow production, according to the source. That could also be creating a slight shortage in some areas of the country, further increasing prices at the pump. 

As prices have climbed, it's been increasingly difficult for drivers to keep up with fuel costs, especially those who routinely drive long distances. Commercial carriers and private fleets have likely noticed an increase in their fuel expenses as prices have jumped, which could make it harder for them to remain competitive. As operating costs rise, many transportation firms may need to increase their pricing to make up for higher expenses.

Keeping expenses down 
For some firms, raising prices may not be a viable solution, especially if a management team doesn't want to lose valuable clients. However, there are other ways a firm can attempt to lower expenses and still keep prices low. Some firms are investigating the benefits of route optimization software, which automates the planning of more fuel-efficient trips and the best order in which to make multiple stops for highest productivity. Not only can such technology save on fuel, it can help fleets improve customer service and realize higher productivity at the same time. Routing software should be considered by DSD fleets, dedicated fleets and other delivery and distribution or field service fleets that are looking for ways to control rising costs.