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Fuel pricing: Is there a better way to deal with this constantly shifting target?

Shippers and carriers alike have been spending a great deal of time the last couple of years trying to figure out where diesel prices will go – the way fuel prices have risen who can blame them?
But the comments of Faith Goodman from the Canadian Petroleum Products Institute at last week’s 22nd annual Transportation Innovation and Cost Saving Conference, left me wondering if we’re taking the right approach. Actually, to be honest, her remarks left me wondering if we are just plain wasting our time trying to pinpoint where we think fuel pricing will be in the future.
Let me explain. Goodman was quite blunt with her message: “We are in uncharted territory,” she said. “Never before have we seen such volatility.”
The estimates on the future price of crude ranges from a low of $75 per barrel to a high of $500. When even the experts are so far apart in their predictions, what chance does the average CEO, supply chain manager or carrier have in predicting future fuel costs?
Perhaps it would be wiser to prepare our companies for several different scenarios. How would continued pricing above the current $110 per barrel affect modal choices, for example, could be the starting point. Our own annual Transportation Buying Trends Survey shows that up to 44% of supply chain professionals have made changes to their modal selections as a result of rising costs.
What if the price climbs above $200 or even $250? How would consumers react and how would that change current shopping, and therefore transportation, models?
Having several models to work with I think would be a better approach than futile attempts to pinpoint a price in a market driven by volatility and where the only certainty is uncertainty.

Lou Smyrlis

Lou Smyrlis

With more than 25 years of experience reporting on transportation issues, Lou is one of the more recognizable personalities in the industry. An award-winning writer well known for his insightful writing and meticulous market analysis, he is a leading authority on industry trends and statistics.
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