The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

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May 7, 2014

Gas prices up 18 cents in month

At $3.81, peak yet to come in Top 10 costliest state, analyst says

SUNBURY — Pennsylvania’s gasoline prices are increasing, putting the commonwealth in the Top Ten most expensive states for a gallon of regular.

But relief is near, industry experts say.

“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 No. 10 in the nation for gasoline prices, behind Hawaii and California, where gasoline is more than $4.20 per gallon, Connecticut, Alaska, New York, Washington state, Washington, D.C., Oregon and Illinois, AAA reports.

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

Pennsylvania is also in the Top Ten largest monthly increases as of May 5, with gasoline rising more than 18 cents per gallon, according to AAA. Only seven states in the nation saw larger increases.

But prices are at or near their high 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 Valley companies, which are constantly working to lower fuel consumption.

Weis Markets’ vehicles travel 17 million miles per year and therefore, the company is always working to conserve, spokesman Dennis Curtin said.

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

Watsontown Trucking also has a price adjustment built into its contracts to accommodate increases in diesel fuel 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 refuel, 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 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 less-expensive gasoline.

“I have a habit of filling my tank in Harrisburg where it is 13 cents cheaper than the (Golden) Strip,” Valerie Ditty Carpenter wrote.

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

“I really try and not to drive, but it’s hard when you have kids, and you need a job,” Rachel Hendricks Kauffman wrote. “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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