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High price of diesel hitting local trucking companies and eventually all of us

Posted at 1:22 PM, May 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-31 15:23:06-04

SALINA, Utah — Gas prices have gone up considerably in recent months and diesel fuel is no exception. You may be feeling the pinch each time you fill up at the pump, but imagine going through well over 10,000 gallons of diesel a day!

That’s what one local company in Salina is dealing with and trying to figure out how to keep their trucks rolling while paying the price.

“You pay out a lot more because you’re doing the same amount of work and mileage but you’re paying a lot more at the pump,” said Kim Robinson, President of Robinson Transport, adding they have a fuel surcharge that helps as they deliver their loads, but that is set at the start of each month and the prices don’t stay the same.

“If it raises 20 cents, 30 cents, a dollar, during that month then we don’t get reimbursed for that.”

Most of Robinson's job rates are long-term, and set in 3 or 4 year contracts.

Robinson is following in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps, as his sons and nephews now work here at the company as he tries to keep the 76 year old company running.

According to AAA, the national fuel price average for diesel fuel in 2020 was $2.33 a gallon. In 2021, that went up over a dollar to $3.36 a gallon, and this week the average reached $5.47.

“So that’s like our trucks, on a 10-hour shift, it cost like $220 for them to fuel the truck back up, and that’s on average 4.3, 4.2 miles per gallon," explained Robinson." In 2021 it jumped to $400 to fuel that truck after a 10-hour shift and today, 650 dollars!”

And it’s not just the price of fuel, but the cost of oil, parts and tires.

Les Noffsinger has run the shop at Robinson Transport for nearly the past three decades.

“In the last year the price of a tire has doubled," said Noffsinger. "The same tire you could have bought last year for close to $200 you have to pay nearly [$500]. Fuel prices have always been up and down, but it’s pretty bad when it jumps a dollar overnight and you’re like it’ll go away and it doesn’t – it jumps another dollar!”

Noffsinger said they’re going through, on average, roughly a tanker a day. He added that’s up to 12,000 gallons, which has forced them to let things hold on a little longer and evaluate each cost a little more closely.

Robinson says his operation would be considered more medium in size than much larger companies seeing similar issues across the state. His company has about 65 rigs on the road right now, hauling mainly coal, but also salt, gypsum, gravel, grain, wheat and corn.

There are about 10 trucking companies similar to Robinson’s in the central Utah area where rural communities and their economies rely on their businesses. And even if residents don’t think it affects them, Robinson said don’t be fooled.

“If you’ve got it or use it or wear it or whatever, a truck touched it."

The price hike of diesel in turn affects the price residents pay for your goods, groceries and services.

Triple L Transport owner Kim Lund said they are also seeing major increases that are hitting them hard. Lund pointed toward the price of diesel trucks themselves, saying each year he has to buy about eight new trucks, and the last couple years he has struggled to be get them; and if they do find one for him, the price is up at least 25%.