The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

May 7, 2014

Analysts: Local gasoline prices will peak soon

SUNBURY — Pennsylvania’s gasoline prices are rising, putting the Keystone state in the top ten most expensive states for a gallon of regular gasoline.

But relief is near, according to industry experts.

“We’re very close to seeing the peak price, at least for the short term,” said Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst with GasBuddy.com. “By Memorial Day prices will be lower.”

At an average of $3.81 per gallon, Pennsylvania is ranked 10 in the nation for gas prices, behind only Hawaii and California, where gas is more than $4.20 per gallon according to AAA, Connecticut, Alaska, New York, Washington state, Washington D.C., Oregon and Illinois.

The national average at $3.64, according to GasBuddy.com.

Pennsylvania is also in the top ten largest monthly increases as of May 5, with gas riding more than 18 cents per gallon, according to AAA. Only seven states in the nation saw larger increases.

But prices are currently at or near their peak for the year, DeHaan said.

“Usually prices peak sometime in spring,” DeHaan said. “The reason for that is refineries undergo maintenance during this time of year, which they do so that this summer they can produce as much as possible.”

The transition to a cleaner-burning summer blend also leads to higher prices, DeHaan said.

The upcoming peak and decline is good news for local companies, who are constantly working to lower fuel consumption. Weis Markets’ vehicles travel 17 million miles per year and therefore, the company is always working to converse fuel, said spokesman Dennis Curtin.

“We are and have been strongly focused on conserving fuel,” Curtin said. “We have programs that help our drivers drive more efficiently. We also have a successful idling program that reduces idling times.”

Watsontown Trucking Company, which has headquarters in Milton, spends about $1.4 million on fuel per month, said President Steve Patton. The company’s truck fleet has more than 330 vehicles and closely monitors idling time and engine performance.

The company also has a price adjustment built into its contract to accommodate increases in diesel fuels costs, Patton said.

However, the most effective measure the company has taken involves software that can analyze truck routes and select the best places to fuel up, Patton said.

“(The program) takes a driver’s route and pre-plans his fuel purchases in order to maximize better fuel prices in certain places,” he said. “That’s been the best way to cut fuel costs.”

The logistics company has also upgraded its fleet to include a more aerodynamic design, Patton said.

Valley drivers are also experiencing pain at the pump, according to posts on the Daily Item’s Facebook page. Several people reported filling up in certain locations to get cheaper gas.

“I have a habit of filling my tank in Harrisburg where it is 13 cents cheaper than the strip,” said Valerie Ditty Carpenter.

Others reported changing their driving habits to avoid paying even more money for gas.

“I really try and not to drive, but it’s hard when you have kids, and you need a job,” Rachel Hendricks Kauffman said. “But when I do drive, I try and do everything at once. Maybe it doesn’t help, but at this point every penny counts.”

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