Moving Grain: Diesel Prices Reach Record Level

    Diesel, gas pump. ©Debra L Ferguson

    U.S. Average Diesel Fuel Prices Reach Record Level

    During the week ending March 7, U.S. average diesel fuel prices increased 74.5 cents from the previous week to a record $4.849 per gallon—$1.706 above the same week last year. Current diesel fuel prices outpace by 8.5 cents the previous record set in 2008.

    Diesel prices are closely tied to crude oil prices. According to the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Short-Term Energy Outlook, “Brent crude oil spot prices averaged $97 per barrel (b) in February, an $11/b increase from January.

    “Daily spot prices for Brent closed at almost $124/b in the first week of March as the further invasion of Ukraine by Russia and subsequent sanctions on Russia and other actions created significant market uncertainties about the potential for oil supply disruptions. These events are occurring against a backdrop of low oil inventory and persistent upward oil price pressures.”

    EIA’s spot crude oil prices have trended upward since September 2021, closely paralleling diesel fuel prices.

    STB Publishes Updated Rail Rate Study

    On February 24, the Surface Transportation Board (STB) posted an updated Rail Rate Index Study, showing real (adjusted for inflation) and nominal rail rates (measured as revenue per ton-mile) from 1985 to 2020. With the addition of 2020 data, the February 24 release updates the version released in December 2021.

    Grain News on AgFax

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    From 2019 to 2020, real rail rates fell moderately (about 2 to 3 percentage points) for grain, intermodal, and food and kindred products. On a percentage basis, rates decreased most for coal and non-grain farm products. Real rates remained relatively flat for chemicals and lumber and wood products.

    The publication follows STB’s release of the 2020 waybill data. An interactive version of the public waybill, along with visuals based on the data, can also be found on USDA’s AgTransport Open Data Platform.

    FMCSA Extends Emergency HOS Waiver for Feed and Fuel

    The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has extended, through May 31, its waiver on hours-of-service (HOS) requirements for trucks transporting feed and ethanol. FMCSA cautions the waiver may end sooner if conditions warrant. Originally issued in 2020 to help address the national COVID-19 emergency, the current waiver still exempts property-carrying vehicles from FMCSA-mandated maximum driving times.

    Like previous iterations, the waiver forbids motor carriers from asking truckers to haul loads when they say they are tired. The waiver does not cover routine commercial deliveries—including mixed loads—with nominal amounts of waiver-qualifying materials.

    Snapshots by Sector

    Export Sales

    For the week ending February 24, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans for marketing year 2021/22 totaled 35.8 million metric tons (mmt), down 23 percent from the same time last year, and down 3 percent from the previous week.

    Net corn export sales were 0.485 mmt, down 53 percent from the previous week. Net soybean export sales were 0.857 mmt, down 30 percent from the previous week. Net weekly wheat export sales were 0.300 mmt, down 42 percent from the previous week.


    U.S. Class I railroads originated 22,168 grain carloads during the week ending February 26. This was an 11-percent decrease from the previous week, 6 percent fewer than last year, and 1 percent more than the 3-year average.

    Average March shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers (per car) were $554 above tariff for the week ending March 3. This was $404 more than last week and $185 more than this week last year. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers this week.


    For the week ending March 5, barged grain movements totaled 634,100 tons. This was 19 percent higher than the previous week and 25 percent lower than the same period last year.

    For the week ending March 5, 395 grain barges moved down river—65 more barges than the previous week. There were 750 grain barges unloaded in the New Orleans Region, 2 percent higher than last week.


    For the week ending March 3, 33 oceangoing grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf—8 percent fewer than the same period last year. Within the next 10 days (starting March 4), 38 vessels were expected to be loaded—28 percent fewer than the same period last year.

    As of March 3, the rate for shipping a metric ton (mt) of grain from the U.S. Gulf to Japan was $71.00. This was 4 percent more than the previous week. The rate from the Pacific Northwest to Japan was $39.25 per mt, 3 percent more than the previous week.

    Full report.

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