KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — After what seemed like a few weeks of slight relief, gas prices are back on the rise across the nation.
As of Tuesday, the national average for a gallon of gas is $4.52. That's up 15 cents from a week ago and 44 cents from a month ago. In East Tennessee, prices are climbing too.
- Highest: Grainger County, $4.29 per gallon
- Lowest: Anderson County, $4.24 per gallon
- Knox County: $4.24 per gallon
And according to AAA, the average cost of a gallon of diesel is $5.34 in Tennessee, and trucking companies are feeling the heat. That's $2.30 higher than the cost of diesel in 2021.
The average 18-wheeler costs more than $1,000 to fill up the tank, and experts said they couldn't see that slowing down for the summer and it’s taking a toll on the logistics industry. Most products are delivered on vehicles that use diesel fuel, and experts said that the rising cost can lead to higher prices for consumers.
Jim Peters runs TDL Logistics, a trucking company in Knoxville. He said the company is spending anywhere between $1.6 million to $2.2 million on fuel each month.
"Occasionally we'll have drivers that are shocked, take a picture of it, send a picture of it and send it to us and say, 'I've never spent this much money at a fuel tanker before. Are we okay?'" Peters said. "We have to pay our fuel bills once a week. Well, most customers pay once a month."
About 30% of TDL Logistics' total cost of operation is now solely focused on fuel. For owner-operator truck drivers who pay for fuel themselves, paying the fuel bill upfront can hurt.
"The owner-operator, you know, he's bearing all this cost upfront and it's not getting any cheaper. Every month it goes up," Peters said.
If gas prices continue to climb, Peters said expects several small logistics companies to go out of business.
"If the supply becomes less because of bankruptcies, it's going to drive rates up and all of the things that are negatively impacting inflation," he said.
To fill a typical 250-gallon 18-wheeler fuel tank costs about $1,300. Peters said they typically get about 7 miles to the gallon. The company is trying to bring costs down by slowing down its drivers.
Earl Arwood, a truck driver of 7 years, said slowing down doesn’t help him accomplish his trips any faster. He said that in his line of work, time matters.
To make his desired living, he said, he has to drive more and spend more time away from his family. Also, the new 65-mile-per-hour speed limit laws, he said, make his job even more demanding.
"If you want to make a good living driving a truck, you're going to have to be on the road at least five days a week and that's a problem," Arwood said. "It's cost me on a personal level about three times what it usually costs me to come back and forth to work."
The cost of diesel could hurt drivers who must pay for their own gas at the pump before getting paid, Arwood said, which typically happens weeks after the job is complete.
"I've seen smaller companies go out of business because of this," Arwood said. "It's not going to be easy but we will get through it like we always have."