Fuel Data Across Modes
Fuel prices play a critical role in all modes of freight transportation. Each mode's fuel efficiency determines its dependence on this necessary resource. The visualizations below present fuel prices at various stages from the crude oil input to carrier surcharges.
Crude Oil Prices
Crude oil prices are the primary driver of petroleum product prices. Global supply expectations and economic growth significantly impact crude oil market prices. Brent Crude Oil is used as a benchmark for other crude oils around the world.
Diesel Fuel Prices
The Energy Information Administration's weekly survey of diesel fuel prices is an important benchmark for fuel surcharges in the trucking and railroad industries. Compared to the 1990s and early 2000s, diesel prices have been at historically high levels in recent years, making diesel fuel trends a significant concern for agricultural shippers.
Bunker Fuel Prices
Bunker fuels are used by bulk and container ocean carriers. These carriers use various fuel options based on sulfur emission limitations at their designated ports of call. The graphic shows average intermediate fuel oils and marine gas prices at 20 major global bunkering ports that, together, are responsible for a vast majority of global volumes.
Effective January 1, 2020, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) implemented a global sulfur emissions cap to reduce the maximum sulfur content of marine fuel oil used in ocean-going vessels from 3.5 percent to 0.5 percent.
Rail Fuel Surcharges
As the price of diesel escalated rapidly in the early 2000s, railroads implemented fuel surcharge programs to help recover those costs. When first put into practice, railroads controversially computed fuel surcharges as a percentage of a shipper’s base (tariff) rate. With pressure from the Surface Transportation Board, after 2007, most fuel surcharges became mileage based and indexed to the EIA's weekly diesel price index. There is a clear correlation between railroad fuel surcharges and the diesel price index above. However, there are additional factors in the fuel surcharge calculation and each railroad computes their fuel surcharge differently, so the correlation isn't exact.
Regional Diesel Fuel Prices
Fuel represents one of the top expenses for truck drivers, and trucking prices must adjust to incorporate changes in fuel prices. Volatility in fuel prices is a problem for long term contracting, so contract truck rates will often be tied to a fuel index, like the EIA U.S. (or regional) diesel price index. The chart below shows the EIA diesel price index for a selection of regions. One notable feature of the chart is the shift in California diesel fuel prices in November 2017. At the time, California increased it's diesel fuel excise tax by 20 cents per gallon in the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017.