Drop in diesel prices helps some truck drivers, hurts others

One might assume that trucking firms and other diesel-reliant businesses would be doing better now than last summer, given the plunge in fuel prices. But much of the fuel-cost savings has been offset by the prolonged U.S. recession that has eliminated 5.1 million jobs and throttled consumer spending.

Some trucking firms are affected much less than others, said Jeff Moore, 53, of San Diego, who was refueling at the Valero Drivers Travel Plaza on Thursday. He drives for Central Refrigerated Service, which transports food and drink products that people unwaveringly consume whether there is a recession or not.

"People want their beer for Sunday football games and NASCAR races," Moore said.

While the price of diesel is less than half its peak of $4.80 a gallon, the news isn't good for everyone.

Some truckers who carry goods such as construction materials have seen their business shattered by the home-building slump, he said.

The collapse in energy prices, while making diesel cheaper, has hurt trucking firms wedded to the oil and gas industry.

Muhammad Sikandar, 35, of Fort Worth, owns a tiny trucking company — two tractor-trailers — that makes its money off drilling in the Barnett Shale in North Texas.

Drilling has plunged along with gas prices, shrinking gross income for Sikandar’s firm from about $8,000 to $1,800 weekly, he said.

When diesel prices were sky-high last year, drilling was booming, so "business was good and we were still making money," Sikandar said. But he said he’s now finding it difficult to make payments on his trailers and retain drivers, whose incomes have fallen from $1,500 a week to about $600.

"I just hope they start drilling more," he said.

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