Knowing Fuel Cost Trending Can Save You Big

The graph illustrates price trends for diesel and gasoline prices averaged from 2004-2014 per month. Data source: BLS

Key Takeaways for Decision Makers
CONTRACTORS: Recognizing fuel cost trends is key in being able to predict the operating cost for a job months and even years out. Using these pricing trends can generate more accurate bids and help in managing costs.

Understanding what your fuel costs will be for a given month is incredibly important in order to run a successful and profitable business. The cost of fuel heavily impacts the operating cost for a piece of equipment, and being prepared for fluctuations can help in any decision making. For example, usage on a piece of equipment that burns higher amounts of fuel per hour might need to be monitored more closely or used less during months of higher fuel costs. Understanding monthly trends can also be beneficial for creating a bid for a job that is months or even years away. If the majority of the work for the job is going to be during the summer months, your operating costs will most likely increase. Likewise, jobs during winter months will generally cost you less in fuel. Being able to predict these changes in your fuel costs could help you edge out your competition and win the bid.

Here’s what we found looking at averages in data from 2004-2014:

Diesel costs generally spike from the months of March to September. On average, the cost of diesel fuel per gallon in March is $3.15 which is over a 4% increase from February. The average cost rises another 3% from March to April before it levels out at around $3.30 per gallon from April to September. You will begin to see a slight decline in average prices in October, but nothing significant. The decline will continue through December when the average diesel cost returns to $3.15 per gallon. You can expect to see the biggest drop in diesel costs from December to January. Overall, diesel fuel is the least expensive in January and February where the average cost hovers around $3.00 and the most expensive in September right before prices start to decline.

When compared to diesel, average gasoline costs have a similar spike from March to September, but a much faster drop in prices from October through December. There is over a 6% increase in gasoline costs from February to March when the average cost per gallon is $2.91. There is another 5% increase in costs from March to April, and a 3.5% increase from April to May and June where prices top out at $3.16 per gallon. From July to September, the average cost of gasoline hovers around the $3.12 per gallon mark. In October you see a 4% decrease in the cost of gasoline, and that decline continues throughout the rest of the year. There is a 6% decline from October to November, and a 4% decline from November to December when the price per gallon drops to $2.70. Overall, gasoline is the least expensive in December and January where the average cost is around $2.68 and the most expensive in May and June where the price reaches a yearly high of $3.16 per gallon.