Rising diesel prices strain truckers, highway departments

WEST SALEM, Wis. (WKBT) — Diesel prices are hitting record highs across the country. For many diesel consumers, staying off the roads to keep costs down isn’t an option.

Diesel prices were just over $3 a gallon a year ago, according to the American Automobile Association. Now, prices are more than $5 in Wisconsin. That’s about a 75% price surge — a steep price to pay for a necessary fuel source.

“They’re not very happy — they can’t figure out why diesel prices are getting so high,” said Desiree Linnehan, a manager at Lloyd’s Speedstop in West Salem. “It’s going up a lot higher — you know, 20 cents a day, 30 cents a day. And people notice that.”

Costs are up, and there’s no simple solution for consumers. Many truckers’ tanks carry 100 gallons, which leads to a hefty bill.

“Most semis are about $900, if not more,” Linnehan said.

Those costs can trickle down to other consumers.

“That’ll affect everything else, you know, groceries and supplies and stuff like that,”  Linnehan said.

But this pain at the pump can’t stop workers from hitting the roads.

At the La Crosse County Highway Department, they have to keep going no matter the cost.

“We still had storm damage last Thursday, we had to send trucks out, run our chainsaws, our trucks, bobcats. That kind of thing,” said Cathy Tschumper, shop supervisor at the highway department.

“I go until they tell me to quit,” Tschumper added. “We really are a necessity. We’re not an expendable part of the county. Things have to get cleaned up and things have to keep being maintained.”

As summer approaches, these prices could even keep people at home.

“I think it’s going to affect a lot of summer travel just because people don’t have a lot of money right now,” Linnehan said.

The Biden Administration is considering tapping into a barely used diesel reserve to ease prices.

But, as CBS News found out, using that resource may not make a big dent in consumer costs.