Diesel hits three-month high after six straight weeks of increases

The average price of a gallon of on-highway diesel went up 5 cents to $2.581 per gallon for the week ending Monday, Aug. 7. This marks the sixth consecutive increase after a month of decreases and the highest prices since May 1, when diesel cost $2.583.

Diesel price averages went up in all 10 regions in the U.S., according to the Energy Information Administration. The largest average increase was in the Rocky Mountain region, where prices at the pump went up by 5.8 cents per gallon. Prices increased by 2.3 cents in the California region, the smallest increase in the nation.

Following are the average prices by region as reported by the EIA:

  • U.S. – $2.531, up 5 cents
  • East Coast – $2.613, up 4.7 cents
  • New England – $2.618, up 2.8 cents
  • Central Atlantic – $2.751, up 4.5 cents
  • Lower Atlantic – $2.514, up 5.2 cents
  • Midwest – $2.543, up 5.7 cents
  • Gulf Coast – $2.41, up 5.1 cents
  • Rocky Mountain – $2.673, up 5.8 cents
  • West Coast – $2.848, up 3.2 cents
  • West Coast less California – $2.747, up 4.3 cents
  • California – $2.93, up 2.3 cents

According to ProMiles, the average retail price at truck stops was $2.552 on Monday morning, a 5.7 cent increase from last week.

ProMiles, the software company that maintains the websites ProMiles.com and TruckMiles.com, continues to offer its own weekly fuel price information. The company’s fuel price data are presented in the same format used by the EIA in the agency’s weekly reports. The prices include a national average as well as regional averages, and comparisons to the previous week and the previous year.

A key difference between the EIA and ProMiles reporting is the type and number of fueling stations the company surveys in order to calculate its averages. While EIA surveys 400 truck stops and convenience stores nationwide, ProMiles uses its direct feed from thousands of truck stops to develop its averages.

TruckMiles.com listed the daily average price for Monday at $2.64, with truckers in Pennsylvania paying an average of $3.097 per gallon, the highest in the nation. Truckers in South Carolina are paying a national low of $2.397 per gallon, according to the site. No states in the Lower 48 states have been listed in excess of $4 per gallon at the pump since Dec. 4, 2014. Two states, Pennsylvania and Washington, are reporting average prices, one more than last week. It has been nearly two months since the last time more than one state reported prices above $3. No states have reported average diesel prices below $2 since April 27, 2016.

AAA has indexed diesel prices at $2.512 for Monday, 21.3 cents more expensive than this time last year and 6.6 cents higher than a month ago.

In separate energy news, according to the New York Mercantile Exchange, light sweet crude (also known as West Texas Intermediate) for September delivery was trading at $48.95 at noon CDT on Monday, a $1.22 decrease from last Monday and a 63-cent decrease from its last settlement price. The price of Brent crude oil for October settlement was listed at $51.90, a 75-cent decrease from last Monday and a 52-cent decrease from its last settlement price.

According to Reuters, oil prices dipped on Monday as investors cashed out amid news of increased production in Libya and continued concerns regarding more production from the U.S. and OPEC countries. Prices dropped last week despite a boost on Friday from a positive employment report in the U.S.

Story by Tyson Fisher

Uber Freight Expanding Into Six Markets This Year


Uber Freight will expand to Arizona, California, Georgia, North and South Carolina and into the Midwest-Chicago area over the next few months after a test run that began in Texas.

“These new areas represent where drivers like to run, which makes sense: These regions including Texas cover over a quarter of the country’s drivers and freight,” the company wrote in a blog post. “Unlocking this geography allows more carriers and their drivers to grow their businesses with Uber Freight’s instant load booking and quick payment. While today we still have most of our loads in Texas, over the coming months drivers can expect to see an ever-increasing number of loads available on the app in these new markets.”

The transportation giant also said that it has heard from truck drivers who prefer to haul specific types of freight in specific lanes. As a result, Uber announced it will build new features to “automatically learn drivers’ preferences based on their past loads, their location, their home base, and more. When a new load is available that matches these preferences, the app will notify the driver.”

Uber has declined to publicly release data on the number of carriers and shipments brokered so far, but the group told USA Today that load counts have increased tenfold in Texas since January.

Story by Transport Topics

Senate Committee Advances Human Trafficking Prevention Legislation











WASHINGTON — Legislation meant to remove individuals involved in human trafficking from the trucking industry was easily approved by a Senate committee Aug. 2.

The bill sponsored by Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) would disqualify truck drivers from the industry if they are found to be involved in human trafficking.

Another bill was approved, as amended, and it would designate a human trafficking prevention coordinator, as well as expand the authorities of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s outreach and education program. Also under the bill, a 15-person advisory committee on human trafficking would be established at the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“Together, these two bills address the prevention and enforcement of human trafficking in the transportation sector and will continue the good work of many who fight to eliminate human trafficking on a daily basis,” Thune said.

Committee ranking Democrat Bill Nelson of Florida emphasized the severity of human trafficking, noting his home state ranked third for the number of cases reported last year.

“The two bills before us today aim to further these initiatives by elevating the issue at [DOT] and helping to prevent and deter human trafficking,” Nelson said.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), a co-sponsor, added the measures “should make a big difference.”

Senate floor managers have yet to indicate when the bills would be called up in the chamber.

Story by Eugene Mulero, Staff Report for Transport Topics

Citrus greening threatening your trees? Florida will send you tiny wasps

Homeowners with citrus trees in their yards can apply online to have a vial of tiny parasitic wasps mailed to them, that can then be released onto citrus trees.

To defend the state’s citrus crop from an industry-crippling infection, scientists with the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services are fighting pest with parasites.

Florida residents can apply online to the department for tiny parasitic wasps called tamarixia that hunt the Asian citrus psyllid, an invasive insect that spreads the fatal disease “citrus greening.”

The psyllid carries the infection, which plugs the plant’s phloem, starves the tree and causes fruit to drop prematurely. Tamarixia feed on the pest and lay eggs inside young psyllids, killing them and, hopefully, the bacteria that cause the disease, said biological scientist Gloria Lotz.

At a mass-rearing lab in Gainesville, one of a few throughout the state, Lotz and fellow researchers supply over 1 million tamarixia every year to commercial citrus growers and now, Florida residents who want to protect their backyard citrus trees.

The tamarixia release program is one of several tools researchers and growers use to slow greening’s spread, including pesticides to kill the disease-causing bacteria and hydroponic systems to keep infected plants healthy.

But there’s no single solution to a complex problem like citrus greening. It’s infected nearly 100 percent of the state’s mature citrus trees, said Steve Futch, a citrus agent at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred.

Biocontrol methods usually operate as a “series of waves,” he said; when there are fewer pests, the parasite that hunts them starts to decline, too.

The chances of eradicating the psyllid and the infection with tamarixia are slim, he said — but it should work well in smaller, urban environments, where wasps can fly between citrus trees on different properties.

The citrus industry employs nearly 76,000 growers, truckers, pickers, and packers who face job loss if crop production continues to decline. But Futch said despite the bleak prognosis, Florida’s staple crop will survive—though it may be a bit smaller.

“There will always be a citrus industry in Florida,” he said. “It will be different in the future than it is today and in the past.”

Citrus tree owners can apply here to have a small vial of the tiny wasps sent to their home: http://bit.ly/2vfcI5V

Story By Scottie Andrew, GateHouse Media Services

Growers expect big strawberry volume for late season

Growers expect bountiful summer strawberry supplies to carry over into autumn.

Strawberries were abundant in the summer, and that trend should continue as the season heads toward autumn, marketers say.

“Right now, there’s still a lot of strawberries available in promotional quantities into September, and then we transition to a fall crop out of Oxnard and that goes into December,” said Jim Grabowski, director of marketing with Watsonville, Calif.-based Well-Pict Inc.

Well-Pict grows strawberries and raspberries for the late-season deal on about 700 acres in Oxnard, Calif., Grabowski said.

The late-season deal has a challenge not like any other, Grabowski said.

“The trouble is, this time of year, we have a lot of competition from other fruits out there,” he said.

“There’s a lot of people fighting for promotional spaces on the ad pages and space in the produce department. This is our time to work harder.”

Summertime strawberry promotions are ubiquitous. It falls on marketers to keep the momentum going in the late summer and fall, Grabowski said.

“It’s a matter of reminding people,” he said.

“They’ve been seeing (strawberries) all summer and, once you transition to fall, if you can keep retailers to keep them front and center, they still will move.

“It may not have to be the No. 1 item in the ad — the idea is to be in the ad.”

Strawberries have eye appeal, which counts for a lot in a retail produce department, Grabowski said.

“If strawberries can stay in a good position, prominent in the produce department, they still will sell,” he said.

Salinas, Calif.-based Naturipe Berry Growers has a fall crop in Santa Maria, Calif., said Craig Moriyama, director of berry operations.

“By design we set that back from a year ago because there was too much overlap (with the Salinas Valley crop),” he said.

“We pushed that back more toward an end-of-August, September and first-of-October-type deal. Oxnard will go in October and November with their fall strawberries.”

Production has been steady over the summer, with somewhat mild conditions, Moriyama said.

Everything looks good for the fall crop at CBS Farms in Watsonville, said Charlie Staka, operations manager.

“We are on track with that crop, and it looks like we’ll have good volume for the fall,” he said.

The late-season deal should begin under “stable” market conditions, said Jason Fung, berry category manager with the Vancouver, British Columbia-based Oppenheimer Group.

“Obviously, the Fourth of July and post-Fourth often has an effect on all items on produce,” he said.

As of July 14, strawberries from the Salinas-Watsonville District packed in flats of eight 1-pound containers with lids were $5-9 for size medium to large, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A year earlier, the same item was $8.

The start of the 2017 season was a bit rocky, slowed by some cool, wet conditions in the late winter and early spring, but the crop settled in nicely afterward and continues to produce good-quality fruit, said Cindy Jewell, vice president of marketing for Watsonville-based California Giant Berry Farms.

“We are not expecting any real shifts in volume for the next several weeks, as summer weather patterns have really settled in and volume will be somewhat consistent on a weekly basis,” she said.

Story by Jim Offner at Thepacker.com

Organic sales inch upward for some foodservice suppliers

Organic produce generally isn’t as popular among foodservice operators as it is at retail, largely because of its price.

Still, several suppliers offer a number of organic products for their foodservice customers, and many report at least a small uptick in sales.

Church Brothers Farms, Salinas, Calif., launched its organic salad offerings about a year ago, said Kori Tuggle, vice president of marketing and business development.

“We’ve started and have kept it simple with three ‘staple’ organic salad items: wild arugula, spinach and spring mix,” she said.

The company’s organic demand is increasing “modestly” among foodservice customers, Tuggle said.

“I believe operators are still looking to offer organic items. However it has to meet their food cost limitations,” she said.

Boskovich Farms Inc., Oxnard, Calif., offers a full line of organic vegetables “with sustained growth projected for 2017,” said Mike O’Leary, vice president of sales and marketing for the fresh-cut division.

Sales of organic baby spinach have held steady, and it continues to be popular at foodservice, he said.

Del Monte Fresh Produce NA Inc., Coral Gables, Fla., continues to expand its product offerings to meet the demands of consumers who prefer organic produce, including avocados and bananas, said Dennis Christou, vice president of marketing.

“We supply different offerings to different segments or venues,” he said. “For instance, organic avocados are sold to two of the casual dining chains we supply.”

Demand for Arcadian Harvest Organic from Mann Packing Co. Inc., Salinas, Calif., continues to grow, said Gina Nucci, director of corporate marketing.

The product is particularly popular at universities and organic-focused restaurants as well as retailers, like Whole Foods salad bars, she said.

Arcadian Harvest Organic, available year-round, combines four lettuce varieties, like green leaf, red leaf, tangos, lollo rosa, batavia and oak leaf, according to the company’s website.

In the avocado category, Robb Bertels, vice president of marketing for Mission Produce Inc., Oxnard, Calif., said there currently is a “little bit of demand” for organic product at foodservice, especially from specialty restaurants. But he said demand seems to be growing.

“Millennials have a certain passion for organic,” he said, so he expects that trend to result in increased organic sales.

Mission Produce ships organic avocados in white boxes with purple accents so that the product stands out in distribution centers or storage areas, he said, distinguishing it from boxes of conventional fruit.

D’Arrigo Bros. Co., Salinas, Calif., offers organic versions of its Andy Boy romaine hearts and Andy Boy broccoli rabe, said Claudia Pizarro-Villalobos, director of marketing and culinary.

Andy Boy organic romaine hearts come in cartons of 12 three-count packs and seven six-count packs, and Andy Boy organic broccoli rabe comes in 1-pound bunches.

Story by Tom Burfield