Cost Of Driving Lurches Upward At Thanksgiving

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The price of traveling during the Thanksgiving Holidays surged during the past week, with the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gas rising more than 7¢ per gallon, according to the latest weekly gas price survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The price of fuel had been decling rapidly during most of October, but the increase in demand for petroleum products, in advance of the holiday, has helped contribute to rising prices. The current U.S. average is back up to $3.29 per gallon.

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The average price of gas in the U.S. notched back up to $3.29 per gallon during the past week, although some regions enjoyed further price declines. In other areas, like Texas and Florida, the price of gas soared between 16¢ and 19¢ per gallon.

The week-over-week gains in gas prices did not affect the West Coast or California, where prices continued to drop during the past week. In fact, the average price of gas in California actually slipped behind New York state during the most recent survey, with drivers in the Golden State paying about $3.55 per gallon and New Yorkers paying an average of $3.57. Price declines in the Rocky Mountain region were the greatest, however, with an average 4¢ per gallon decline in fuel costs at the pump. The Rocky Mountain region has the second-lowest gas prices in the U.S., being only one cent higher in cost than the average price across the Gulf Coast.

City by city, drivers in Miami fared worse than nearly everywhere else during the past week, with gas prices surging a whopping 15¢ per gallon in South Florida, and prices in the Sunshine state up an astonishing 19¢ per gallon. In Texas, the only other state where gas prices surge so much, the price drivers are paying at the pump lurched upward by an average of 16¢. Drivers in Houston are paying about 17¢ per gallon more for gas, the only major city where prices jumped more than Miami.

The cost of diesel fuel finally reversed or halted its downward trend, as prices in nearly all regions increased by a penny or more during the past week. On average, truckers and diesel car drivers paied about 2¢ more per gallon during the past week, while drivers in the Midwest ended up paying as much as 4¢ more. Prices in California and the broader West Coast paid the same, with the average prices at the same levels as last week.

Year over year, most of us are paying less than we were at Thanksgiving time in 2012. However, that trend does not hold for Florida and Texas, the fourth and second largest states in the U.S., respectively, by population.

Regardless of the past two weeks’ trends of rising fuel costs, the EIA has not adjusted its December price forecast or its 2014 price projections. Fuel costs are expected to continue their downward slide through December and for most of 2014, with moderate price increases expected during peak travel times.

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Gas Prices Slip Upward In States East Of Rocky Mountains

Price Declines In Recent Weeks Come To Abrupt Halt

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The price of gasoline, which has been going down for several weeks, did an about-face last week as the cost of filling up suddenly lurched upward a few cents. The Midwest, Central Atlantic and Lower Atlantic regions of the U.S. were hardest hit, with gas price increases of four and five cents per gallon, on average. The national average price of gas slipped upward to $3.22 per gallon of regular unleaded, according to the weekly gas price survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Even the Gulf Coast, which enjoyed a week with official survey prices below the $3.00 threshold, found the average price of gasoline back to the 3-dollar mark, although many stations from Texas through the Florida panhandle have prices well below $3.00.

Despite the increase in gas prices in the eastern states, the West Coast region and the Rocky Mountain region of the U.S. enjoyed more relief from price pressures at the pump. The average price of gas in the Rockies and the broader West Coast regions fell an average four cents per gallon, with the price of unleaded ranging in average from $3.18 in Idaho and Montana to $3.47 in California.

Diesel pumps at the Pompano Beach Service Plaza

Diesel prices continued their slow decline during the past week, bucking a trend of higher fuel costs for other drivers.

Diesel prices also continued to decline during the past week, helping offset shipping costs related to fuel. The average price of a gallon of diesel was down to $3.82 across the nation, although trukcers in New England are still paying at or above $4.00 in some places. As with regular gas, the lowest costs for diesel are in the Gulf Coast region.

Gas Price Increases Not Expected To Endure

The uptick in prices for most regular drivers may be short lived. The EIA has long been forecasting continued declines in petroleum prices, with an expected upward turn in prices only expected in January. The EIA long-range forecasts show the price of fuel will keep falling through December, rise slightly in January, then continue declining for the remainder of 2014.

Service plaza near Warren, Ohio.

Gas prices are likely to continue their downward trend, despite last week’s cost increases.

The upward pressure on prices may have been the result of tighter gas supply stocks after the first week of November. The EIA’s weekly petroleum status report, which is separate from the gas price survey, shows the weekly motor gasoline stocks declined by about 8-million barrels from November 1 to November 9, and crude oil input to refineries also declined during the same period. The crude stocks dropped from a high of 14.95-million barrels per day on November 1 to only 14.73-million barrels per day on November 9. However, daily crude input to refineries can fluctute considerably from day to day.

As for the crude oil prices, themselves, West Texas Intermedia continues flirting with levels below $93, although prices were up to $93.37 after the lunch hour Tuesday. Brent crude has also continued to remain well north of $100, and was trading near $107 per barrel late in the day Tuesday. The issue with crude, however, is two-fold. On one hand, current prices are for December delivery, although fuel suppliers, including gas retailers, use a last-in, first-out accounting method. On the other, foreign crude supplies account for only about 40% of U.S. oil consumption, leaving the WTI with greater influence on domestic fuel costs to drivers.

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Pennsylvania Turnpike Tolls Going Up January 5

2014 Toll Increase In Keystone State Will Hit Cash Customers Hardest

The cost of driving the Pennsylvania Turnpike will be increasing again when tolls are raised on January 5, 2014. Tolls have gone up annually on the Penna Turnpike, in recent years, to help pay for roadway renovations, expansions and a massive service plaza upgrade program that is winding down in 2014.

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Traffic on Pennsylvania Turnpike

Drivers on the Pennsylvania Turnpike are about to be hit with another annual price increase, and for cash customers, the increases are even higher than last year.

The rate hikes will hit cash customers hardest, as the average cash rate will surge by about 12%, according to the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, which announced the rate increase during the peak of the summer driving season. The increase was approved in mid July.

The PTC has been pushing more people to buy the electronic tolling device, E-ZPass, citing a lower cost of operation. Providing staff for toll booths is significantly reduced with the E-ZPass, and overall toll collection is anywhere from one-fifth to only one-tenth the cost of having to collect cash tolls, according to the PTC’s estimates. In fact, the 2014 cash price increase is 20% higher than 2013, while the E-ZPass rates are going up by the same percentage.

In fact, E-ZPass rates will only increase by about 2% on January 5, as opposed to the 12% for cash tolls. For short-distance travelers, the increase may not be little more than an irritation. The PTC reports the average cash toll on the Pennsylvania Turnpike is about $4.49, as opposed to $2.92 using the E-ZPass on the same trip.

Truckers To Face Steep New Travel Costs

However, the longer the distance traveled, the greater the pinch on the wallet. A traveler driving the full-length of the mainline, from Ohio to New Jersey, currently pays $39.15 in cash tolls, versus $30.77 for E-ZPass users. And those are only the lower rates, for passenger cars.

View of NJ turpike extension heading toward the Pennsylvania Turnpike at the Delaware River

Trucks coming into Pennsylvania will be even costlier for operators, as higher-weight and more axles add significantly to toll costs, particularly for long-distance haulers.

With such a dramatic price increase in the cash toll rate, the coming differential will certainly be felt for both commuters and long-distance travelers. However, it is truckers who will really be hard hit by the rate increase. Currently, a 5-axle truck hauling about 35,000 pounds of freight will incur $121.80 in cash tolls; after January 5, that figure will increase to $136.40. E-ZPass prices will be higher, but the rate will only go from the current $96.03 to $97.95.

And the bigger the truck or heavier the load, the higher the price will be. Tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike can run into the thousands of dollars for a trucker paying cash, and the 2014 price increase will ruther exacerbate those costs. In fact, the falling cost of diesel fuel will be lost in Pennsylvania, primarily offset by the coming turnpike toll increase.

The PTC has not announced whether it will continue raising rates on an annual basis and in perpetuity. However, regular drivers on Pennyslvania’s Turnpike and Northeast Extension have become accustomed to paying a new toll with the new year. For 2014, however, the rate increase comes a day earlier than it did in 2013.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission news release, announcing the toll increases, may be downloaded here.

 

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Gas Prices Hit New Lows As Seasonal Migrations Flare Up

Prices Officially Slip Below $3.00 Per Gallon In Some Areas

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The cost of gasoline has hit another fresh low this week, with the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded now at just $3.19, a sharp drop of over 7¢ from last week. This week also marks the first time this season prices have dipped below $3.00 per gallon, according to the weekly gas price survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Although most regional prices are not yet below the $3.00 level, drivers in states along the Gulf Coast are paying an average of $2.98 per gallon. In some areas, the price is much lower.

Gas prices under three dollars

Gas prices at some stations, like this one in near Austin, Texas, reflect a trend to prices under $3.00 for many areas.

The cheaper cost of driving comes at a fortuitous time for seasonal travelers, many of whom are heading to southern states, particularly Florida, to take up winter residency. The new price lows also come ahead of holiday traveling, which will begin picking up volume by late November with Thanksgiving.

While the lowest regional average was in the Gulf Coast, many other areas are enjoying very cheap gas. Drivers across the Midwestern states are enjoying an average $3.07 gas price, while travelers across the broader eastern seaboard are paying an average $3.24. California and West Coast drivers are still paying up to $3.51, on average, for regular unleaded.

Truckers Benefit From Lower Diesel Prices

The cost of operating a diesel rig or fleet of trucks has gone down, at least in terms of fuel costs. The price of the average gallon of diesel is now at $3.83, nationwide, and at a low of $3.75 for Gulf Coast truckers. However, prices at many stations near toll roads, like ones in Texas, are witness to prices well below their regional averages. At one station near Austin, close to the Texas 45 Toll Road, the price of diesel was only $3.59 per gallon.

Too Much Supply As WTI Heads Lower

Lower crude oil prices in recent weeks have contributed to the decline in fuel prices, but there is also a glut of supply at many refineries, even as refinery capacity is undergoing seasonal adjustments. As for the price of crude, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) closed Tuesday at $93.16, although it had traded as low as $92.86, intraday. Brent crude closed at $106.14, although it had been as low as $103.46 late last week.

The lower seasonal demand, despite spikes in traffic around certain holidays, is also another factor playing into the reduced price of gas. But there is a longer-term trend toward even lower prices, according to a recent forecast from the EIA. Gas prices are expected to continue decling through the holiday season and well into 2014, according to the report.

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Gas Keeps Getting Cheaper, Making For Early Holiday Gift

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The price of gas continues to fall across the nation, although the declines are a bit smaller as November gets underway, according to this week’s report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The EIA report shows the price of a gallon of regular unleaded fell to a nationwide average of $3.27, which is about two cents less than last week. some regions, as usual, enjoyed a larger decline than others. The Rocky Mountain states had the biggest weekly drop in fuel costs, with the average price at the pump down by about 6¢ per gallon.

Gas prices in South Florida

The price of gas across many regions is now below $3.30, with some areas, like the Gulf Coast, close to $3.00. Picture taken Mon., Nov. 4 in Oakland Park, Florida.

The price of gas in the Gulf Coast states was nearly at $3.00 per gallon, the only region that is that close, officially, to having three-dollar gas. For most of us, the price is between $3.20 and $3.30 per gallon. Moreover, gas prices in most regions are now lower than at the start of 2013.

By mid summer, the cost of driving had gone so high, many drivers were paying near or just over $4.00 per gallon for fuel. The price of diesel was even higher, making a fill-up for a trucker a costly endeavor.

The price of diesel is down this week, as well, following the trend of regular gasoline. However, the cost of diesel is not declining as quickly as with regular unleaded. The average price of a gallon of diesel is down about a penny per gallon, although some parts of the West Coast and California are seeing declines of 2¢ and 3¢ per gallon, respectively.

The price of gas is expected to level off by mid-December, according to a recent forecast by the EIA. The projected price of gas near the height of the holiday season is expected to hover around $3.15 per gallon. If current trends are any indication, some regions will have gas prices lower than $3.00 gallon, particularly the Gulf Coast.

On the futures exchanges, the price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) was down to a five-month low Tuesday evening, after closing in on $93 per barrel. Even Brent is down significantly, moving closer to $105 per barrel. Tuesday prices fell considerably for both WTI and Brent, with the U.S. crude futures having fallen five out of the past six sessions.

A report from Reuters states U.S. oil supplies are up, reducing demand for future deliveries. The report cites an increase of about 2-million barrels of oil at a stock yard in Cushing, Oklahoma, which is the largest increase in supply there since December 2012.

When the glut of supply is matched with reduced refinery demand, the combination gives a one-two punch to the price of oil futures, which translates into lower prices at the retail level. However, due to oil companies’ accounting practices, retail prices declines, due to lower crude prices, typically time to manifest.

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Gas Prices Plummet, Fall To $3 In Some Areas

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The price of gas went into a near freefall during the past week, with many regions of the United States enjoying some of the lowest prices of the year. The biggest decline in prices came for the Midwest, where the average price of a gallon of unleaded plunged nearly 12¢ per gallon to just under $3.20. Across the Gulf Coast, the price of gas is near the $3.00 mark, the lowest regional average in the country. For the broader, nationwide average, the price of unleaded stands, officially, at about $3.29 per gallon, a drop of nearly 7¢ over last week, according to the latest survey from the Energy Information Administration.

One area where drivers are still experiencing higher gas prices is across the West Coast and California. Gas price averages in some areas are more than 30¢ above the national average, with a trip up the Pacific Coast Highway likely to set you back about $3.61 per gallon. Most Westerners, however, are paying about $3.42 per gallon; drivers across the Rocky Mountain states are divvying up slightly less, at $3.37 per gallon, on average.

The price of shipping goods over land has also become a little less expensive, with the price of diesel fuel dropping about 2¢ per gallon during the pas week. Overall, however, diesel prices are lagging regular gasoline in price declines. The average price of diesel remains in the high $3.80’s, with prices in some areas across the West Coast still well north of $4.00 per gallon, particularly in California.

However, the current price trend is likely to continue, and that will bring further relief to regular drivers as well as truckers, going forward. As the price of crude  oil continues falling, the retail price at the pump will follow suit, typically within a couple of months. However, crude prices have been mixed in recent weeks. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) is now well off it’s yearly highs, closing Tuesday at $97.46 for December delivery. However, Brent Light Sweet Crude remained well above the 100-dollar threshhold, primarly because of unreast in Libya this week. That political instability has shaken markets, but it has not caused a run-up in fuel prices like investors witnessed in August, when concerns in both Libya and Syria drove speculation of supply disruptions.

Even so, the EIA has predicted the winter driving season will begin with gas prices at their lowest levels of the year. The EIA is further forecasting gasoline prices to continue falling into 2014, with a brief uptick in January, which is normal for the start of a calendar year.

Gas price projections for 2014

Perhaps the best news for 2014 projections is for the truckers. Diesel prices, which have hovered near or above $4.00 per gallon for the past two years, are projected to finally fall to around $3.76 per gallon, on average, in the coming calendar year. However, those projections are subject to considerable fluctuations due to supply and demand issues, particularly where it concerns refinery capacity and the potential for supply disruptions during the winter.

EIA diesel price projections for 2014

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Gas Prices

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Gas prices across the U.S. slipped upward about a penny per gallon during the recent week, according to the latest survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The EIA report shows the average price of a gallon of unleaded gas is now about $3.36 per gallon, although many areas are enjoying substantially lower prices, particularly the Gulf Coast states, where the price of gas is about $3.12 per gallon.

The slight uptick in prices goes against the longer-term seasonal trend of lower prices, overall, for most U.S. drivers, and it is not expected to continue, according to a report this week in USA Today. That trend is being driven largely by lower futures prices, which fell below $100 per gallon this week.

Futures prices have been slipping considerably in recent weeks, although periodic price disruptions have caused spikes in futures trades, particularly where it concerns North African and Middle Eastern supplies. But the production of oil elsewhere, particularly in the United States, has helped offset those scares. Refineries are also now producing cheaper grades of gasoline for winter driving, which also contributes to the lower cost of fuel.

For drivers nationwide, the price of gas did, in fact, fall in a number of regions during the past week, including the West Coast and California, the Rocky Mountain states and for drivers in the Central and Lower Atlantic states. The cost of fuel dipped by about 4¢ per gallon across the West Coast, and about 3¢ per gallon across the Rocky Mountain states and New England, regions where the price of gasoline is still hoveing closer to $3.50 per gallon.

For truckers and other drivers of diesel-powered vehicles, the price of fuel was basically flat during the past week. The average U.S. price of diesel fuel was flat this past week, with some regions showing a penny per gallon increase in prices and others showing a dip of a penny. Overall, the average price of diesel is about $3.89 per gallon, which is identical to last week.

Year over year prices continue to provide a longer-term view that augurs great news for drivers in the weeks to come. Some analysits believe the price of gasoline is likely to continue falling through the winter months, driving the price of gas to the lowest levels drivers have enjoyed since 2010. However, that prediction could prove folly if a frigid prediction by Farmer’s Almanac proves true.

Farmer’s Alamanac predicts an especially frigid and wet winter season in the coming months, which means heating oil and natural gas supplies are likely to be strained under heavy demand. If home heating oil demand spikes, the prices in related, broader energy markets could come under pressure to increase.

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With Government Reopened, We Report New Gas Price Data

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The cost of gas is not likely to be a mystery to anyone who is filling up their tank, but official reports from the Energy Information Agency about gas prices were delayed this week due to the government shutdown. After congressional Democrats and Republicans came to an agreement Wednesday night to reopen govenment, the EIA followed the next day with its weekly gas price survey.

The price of a gallon of regular unleaded was flat across the Midwest and Lower Atlantic states, but prices were mostly down in every other region. The average price of a gallon of gas dropped by about a penny, on a nationwide basis, but there were price declines of as much as 5¢ per gallon, particularly across New England, the Rocky Mountain West and the broader West  Coast region.

The price of diesel fuel also fell during the week, with the average price of a gallon of diesel down by about a penny, although prices in the Midwest and Rockies went down by as much as 3¢ per gallon. Truckers and other diesel car drivers are paying, on average, about $3.88 per gallon.

The year over year gas price comparison continues to show a remarkable trend. In some places, paricularly on the West Coast, the price of a gallon of gas is down by as much as 71¢ compared to this time last year. The average among us is paying about 47¢ per gallon less for fuel this year. Diesel prices are down about 26¢ per gallon, when compared with October 2012 levels.

EIA-is-now-closed-sm

The EIA sent this email to notify members of the media the regular energy reports, including the weekly gas price survey, would not be published until the government shutdown ended.

This week’s report was delayed as a result of the U.S. government shutdown. While the EIA weekly report was delivered October 7, after the shutdown was already in effect, appropriations for continued operations did not become exhausted until a few days later. The Energy Information Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Energy, sent an email to media October 12 stating, “EIA is closed due to a lapse in appropriations.  EIA will not update its website until the agency reopens.”

The consequence was the Monday evening reports did not get compiled or posted as usual. The EIA’s weekly pricing surveys are usually released during the evening every Monday. TurnpikeInfo.com typically posts the reports, with analysis, late Monday night or early Tuesday.

This week’s report was delayed until government reopened, which happened October 17.

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Government Shutdown May Help Gas Prices, But At What Cost?

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The price of gasoline continued falling across every region of the United States this past week, with the price of a gallon of unleaded fuel falling an average of 6¢ per gallon, on a nationwide level, to $3.37. The price data are included in this week’s survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Various regions had differing levels of price change, which is normal. What is somewhat unusual is the relative equanimity found in those price declines, from one region to the next. Drivers on the West Coast, not including California, found the price of gas down by about 4¢ per gallon, while the largest price declines came in the Midwest, where the cost for fuel dipped by about 7¢.

The drop in prices has been welcome relief for drivers. Most of the gas prices across the U.S. spiked in June and July. Another spate of price increases happened during mid and late August, all against the backdrop of supply problems in Libya and the potential for a military showdown in Syria. The focus of the next potential price disruption is already being seen in Egypt and Libya, this in the wake of a pair of covert operations in Africa over the weekend. U.S. special forces captured a wanted Qaeda leader in Libya, while another warlord was being sought in Somalia.

Oil futures graphic

Gas prices could be chained upward pressures due to geopolitical instability, even though domestic politics should bring down consumer demand and prices at the pump. Graphic: PhotoDune.net

Continued political unrest in Egypt, combined with the military operation in Libya, have caused futures traders to fear supply disruptions in those areas. Crude oil futures have been going back up in recent days, this after trading lower through most of September.

Sans the geopolitical instability in the Middle East, crude oil might be heading lower, this over fears of lower consumer demand in the face of a lingering government shutdown. Supplies from the North Sea have, at least, kept some price control on crude futures. North Sea crude is expected to reach peak supply levels in November.

Even amid the potential for short-term price increases, the longer-term trend has been one of extraordinary price declines. Overall, U.S. gas prices are down nearly 13% from their levels at this time last year. The average price of a gallon of uneaded, in early October 2012, was about $3.86.

Diesel car drivers and truckers are also paying less, both year over year and week over week. The average price of a gallon of diesel fell by 2¢ in most regions, with prices in the Central Atlantic and West Coast areas down by about 3¢.

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Cost To Drive Takes A Dive In September

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The price of a gallon of gasoline fell once again during the past week, with the average U.S.  price falling another 7¢ during the last week of September, according to the latest gas price survey from the Energy Information Administration. The EIA report was released Monday,  before the U.S. government shutdown took effect at midnight. The report shows the price of gas was down in all regions of the United States, with drivers in the Midwestern U.S. enjoying the biggest price breaks. On average, Midwest fuel is down by nearly 11¢ per gallon in most places, which brings additional relief to a region stricken by unusually high prices during the summer.

September 2013 Gas Price Comparison

Gas finally fell nearly consistently through September, which was good news following the volatile price market in August.

The price of gas dropped an average of 18¢ per gallon, overall, in the United States during September, ending the summer in exactly the opposite fashion to the start of the season, when supply issues and refinery problems pushed prices higher. The price of regular unleaded started September around $3.61 per gallon, which was the U.S. average on September 2. The month closed with the price down to only $3.43 per gallon, but prices were much lower across the Lower Atlantic and Midwest states. For the latter two regions, the price of fuel plunged an average of 30¢ per gallon, or just about 9-percent.

California drivers are not getting much gas price relief, however. The price of fuels in California is up for the month of September, which dragged the entire West Coast average higher for the month. When one takes California out of the equation, the price of gasoline on the West Coast still only declined by about a nickel per gallon, far less than most other regions. The Rocky Mountain states fared only slightly better, with the cost of a gallon of gas dipping by about 8¢ per gallon, significantly less than the U.S. average and only about 25% of the decline enjoyed by many drivers in the nation’s mid-section.

For truckers, the price of gas was also down this week, according to the EIA survey report. The average price of a gallon of diesel was down by about 3¢ per gallon in nearly all regions, except the Rocky Mountain states, where the price dropped by only about a penny in most areas. The cost of operating a tractor-trailor rig is lower, however, than at this time last year.

Nationwide, the cost of a  gallon of diesel is down by about 16¢ from the 2012 level, with prices dopwn by as much as a quarter per gallon on the West Coast and nearly 30¢ per gallon in the Rocky Mountain states.

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