Steep Drop in Gasoline Prices Diminishing, Lundberg Says

The average price of regular gasoline at U.S. pumps dropped 13.3 cents to $2.069 a gallon, as the plunge may be abating, according to Lundberg Survey Inc. Prices are $1.242 lower than a year ago, according to the survey, which is based on information obtained at about 2,500 filling stations during the two weeks ended Jan. 23 by the Camarillo, California-based company. Gasoline prices may be nearing a trough after falling in every Lundberg survey since July. Declines have lost steam and prices will be hitting a bottom soon unless there is a renewed plunge in crude oil prices, according to Trilby Lundberg, the president of Lundberg Survey. “In the past 10 days, the wholesale prices that gasoline marketers and retailers pay are up,” Lundberg said in a telephone interview. “Retail prices will most likely be bottoming soon, if they haven’t already.” The highest price for gasoline in the lower 48 states among the markets surveyed was in San Francisco, at $2.54 a gallon, Lundberg said. The lowest price was in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where customers paid an average $1.73 a gallon. Regular gasoline averaged $2.33 a gallon on Long Island, New York, and $2.42 in Los Angeles. West Texas Intermediate crude, the U.S. benchmark priced in Cushing, Oklahoma, declined $2.77, or 5.7 percent, to $45.59 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange in the two weeks to Jan. 23. Prices have fallen 58 percent since June 20. U.S. oil output fell to 9.186 million barrels a day in the week ended Jan. 16, after reaching 9.192 million Jan. 9, the highest level in weekly Energy Information Administration data dating back to 1983. U.S. production has increased 70 percent in five years as companies have used horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing to tap into hydrocarbon-rich layers of underground shale rock. Crude oil remained below $50 after Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud said he would maintain Saudi Arabia’s energy policies after taking over as king following his predecessor’s death on Jan. 22. Oil has slumped about 36 percent since the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ Nov. 27 accord to maintain production at 30 million barrels a day amid a glut caused in part by the fastest U.S. output in three decades. King Abdullah oversaw a fivefold expansion in the size of the Arab world’s biggest economy and met the Arab Spring with a mixture of force and largesse. He died after almost a decade on the throne. Saudi Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi, who led OPEC’s November decision to defend market share against surging U.S. shale supplies, remains in his post, according to state-run Saudi Press Agency. With production of 9.5 million barrels a day and exports of 7 million, Saudi Arabia accounts for more than 10 percent of global supply and a fifth of crude sold internationally. Refineries processed 14.9 million barrels of oil a day in the week of Jan. 16, the lowest level since October 2013 and down 9.2 percent in just two weeks.

FMCSA Study: Carrier Involvement in Crash Strong Indicator of Future Risk

About 91% of police accident reports contain enough information to determine fault in a truck-related crash, but assessing whether a truck and driver were at fault in a crash does not appear to improve the ability to predict crash risk when all crashes are considered, according to a long-awaited study unveiled by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. “Independent research has demonstrated that a motor carrier’s involvement in a crash, regardless of their role in the crash, is a strong indicator of their future crash risk,” FMCSA said in announcing its findings Jan. 21. In a statement, American Trucking Associations expressed its disappointment that FMCSA “continued its efforts to delay appropriate action on the important issue of crash accountability in its [Compliance, Safety, Accountability] program.” “Numerous times over the past five years, ATA has respectfully requested FMCSA to screen out crashes from CSA where it is plainly evident the professional truck driver and motor carrier were not at fault,” ATA Executive Vice President Dave Osiecki said. “Instances where a truck is rear-ended by a drunk driver or hit head-on by a motorist traveling in the wrong direction on the interstate or, as happened just Monday, when a truck was struck by a collapsing bridge, are clearly not the fault of the professional driver and certainly should not be used to target his or her carrier for potentially intrusive government oversight.” The study said that in an analysis of nearly 10,892 police accident reports (PARs), more than 9,884 generally provided reliable information on which to assess fault in an accident. However, when the study compared data contained in police accident reports with information contained in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), the two data sources were not always in agreement. “The agency was unable, in this type of analysis, to establish which record, the PAR or FARS, was more accurate, but simply identified the fact that the two data sources were not always in agreement,” FMCSA said. The purpose of the study was to examine three questions: •Do police accident reports provide sufficient, consistent, and reliable information to support crash-weighting determinations? •Would a crash-weighting determination process offer an even stronger predictor of crash risk than overall crash involvement, and how would crash-weighting be implemented in the Safety Measurement System (SMS)? •Depending upon the analysis results for the questions above, how might FMCSA manage the process for making crash-weighting determinations, including public input to the process? In answer to the last question, FMCSA said in the report the agency would have to set up a system with the states to collect and manage the police report data. Such a system could cost between $3.9 million and $11.2 million annually. The study examined police accident reports obtained from two national datasets: the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s FARS and the National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey, FMCSA said. ATA Chairman Duane Long, chairman of Longistics, in Raleigh, North Carolina, added, “We want to be fairly judged and not be penalized by crashes our professional drivers could not reasonably avoid. It’s not only a fairness issue, it’s a good government oversight approach. We continue to trust FMCSA might eventually arrive at this conclusion.”

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