New England diesel tops $2 a gallon

The average price at the pump for a gallon of diesel fuel rose another 1.8 cents last week, and for the first time topped the $2 mark in one region. The U.S. Dept. of Energy said the national average price reached $1.771, which is exactly 23-cents less than drivers in New England are paying. At $2.001, New England drivers are paying 43.6 cents more a gallon than they were nine weeks ago. And with no immediate sign of oil prices slowing down, trucking industry analyst Martin Labbe said it's a make-or-break period for smaller fleets. "Some of these smaller fleets will see awkward letters from their lawyers in the next 60 to 90 days, even if the price of diesel stops rising," Labbe, president of Martin Labbe Associates, told Fleet Owner. "These fleets are surviving month-to-month." According to the department's Energy Information Administration, the price in the Central Atlantic region has hit $1.959. Drivers in the Gulf Coast region are paying the lowest at $1.697. "I don't know why the cost has risen, but I know our trucks only get between five and seven miles a gallon," Rich Mosley, owner of Syracuse, NY-based Foremost Transportation Inc., told The Post-Standard of Syracuse. "It absolutely kills me, and we have to pass it on to our customers." The threat of a U.S. war against Iraq and a general strike in Venezuela, one of the largest oil-producing countries, are most often cited as causes for the increase. OPEC oil producers today agreed to leave official supply limits unchanged at 24.5 million barrels a day, Algerian Oil Minister Chakib Khelil said. Officials in Saudi Arabia said they will not allow a decrease in production.

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