Saving for a spike

Fourteen months ago, you paid as much as $1.65 for a gallon of diesel. Even if you were able to negotiate a fuel surcharge, it probably only helped ease – but didn’t eliminate – the pain of this unforeseen cost. My, how things change. On Dec. 10, the national average price for a gallon of diesel was $1.17 – 48 cents less than $1.65. In some areas it’s even lower. And analysts don’t expect prices to climb until the second half of this year.

Lower fuel prices are good news for owner-operators hit hard in the past two years. But we can’t take cheap fuel for granted. Experts predict that another terrorist attack or a blast of severe winter weather could send prices back to the $1.50 per gallon range. Will your business survive another spike?

It will if you start planning for it now, says owner-operator business consultant Kevin Rutherford of Orlando, Fla. “We say to our clients, ‘Let’s figure out what you were spending on fuel last year and what you’re spending now,'” he says. “Then we tell them, ‘Let’s put half of it away.'”

Let’s say you paid $1.60 per gallon last year. If you burned 20,000 gallons (120,000 miles per year

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