It’s taking over $1,000 to fill up a fuel tank right now. It used to cost us $350-$400 — Stan Pettingill, owner of Colt & Joe Trucking





Hector Reyes, a mechanic and head driver with Colt & Joe Trucking in Albuquerque’s North Valley, sitting inside one of the company’s semis on Wednesday, June 15, 2022. Colt & Joe Trucking, located at 801 Nikanda Road, is one of the area trucking companies feeling the impact of rising fuel prices. (Photos by Matt Hollinshead/Observer)


Spiraling diesel prices are hammering area trucking companies.

Fuel surcharge rates are affected.

For Juan Rodriguez, owner of JR Transport in Bernalillo, driving one lone truck means prices affect his wallet.

“You’re used to spending $400 a week in fuel, and now you’re spending $1,000 a week in fuel,” he said.

The latest prices

According to AAA’s website, the average price of regular unleaded gas per gallon in New Mexico was $4.771 as of Wednesday. In Sandoval County, the average price per gallon for regular unleaded was $4.638. In Bernalillo County, that number’s $4.732. The national average was $4.955 as of Wednesday.

In May, the average state and national prices for regular unleaded per gallon were $4.289 and $4.483, respectively.

The state’s average price of diesel gasoline per gallon was $5.597 as of Wednesday, while the average national diesel price per gallon was $5.812. The average price of diesel gasoline per gallon in the Albuquerque metro area was $5.543 as of Wednesday.

In May, the average state and national diesel gas prices per gallon were at $5.434 and $5.566, respectively.

Fuel surcharge rates stand out

The fuel surcharge rate for Rio Rancho-based Smithart Trucking is up to 45 percent.

“I’m sure at some point, customers are going to want to stop paying it. We’ve lost a few loads because they can’t afford to pay it,” Smithart Trucking co-owner Julia Frese said.

Frese said rising fuel costs haven’t forced Smithart Trucking to reassess its route coordinates, but the fuel surcharge rate keeps changing and is going up.

Colt & Joe Trucking, in Albuquerque’s North Valley, has a fuel surcharge rate of 30 percent. However, fuel costs represent more than 40 percent of the company’s total expenses.

JR Transport has a fuel surcharge rate of 38 percent. For example, Rodriguez’s setup is done in a way where, for example, he’d collect 38 percent of a $400 load, which would be $152.

Now he’s preparing to increase that fuel surcharge number to help him regain his profit margin. He said the company he works with to ship materials, Rinker Materials, plans to set its rate closer to the national fuel surcharge average and go about it differently.

“They’re doing it by the mile, which last week was 76 cents a mile. Since most of my stuff is local, it only puts in $10 or $15 per load. I’ve got to change my rates to compensate for all that,” he said.

Truckers holding up fine, for now

Despite being limited to just one truck, Rodriguez said that hasn’t been a problem because he hasn’t had any significant mechanical issues nor does he have employees to monitor.

He also gets compensated for those gas expenses and isn’t out of money.

Frese said it helps that Smithart Trucking owns its equipment because that means fewer payments. She also doesn’t have to worry about paying $200,000-$230,000 for a new truck.

“You’re not going to get a used truck for any less than ($70,000) right now. If we had payments for a truck purchase of that size, I’m sure it would make a huge difference on how we operate,” she said. “We’re pretty much just paying our fuel, our drivers are insured. So, we can kind-of wait this out where a lot of trucking companies can’t.”

Hector Reyes, a mechanic and head driver with Colt & Joe Trucking in Albuquerque’s North Valley, checks one of two fuel tanks on one of the company’s semi trucks on Wednesday, June 15, 2022.

Concerns linger

Stan Pettingill, owner of Colt & Joe Trucking, sees two problems amid rising fuel prices: Larger companies employing trucks would inevitably lose those trucks because they can’t afford to run them, and truck parts are already scarce because of ongoing supply chain issues.

Pettingill’s operation involves driving between between Dallas and Albuquerque.

“We haul a lightweight aggregate to Dallas that they make the stone veneer out of, and I haul back in 90 percent of the Coca Cola products that come back into Albuquerque. We’re pretty much dedicated to bring every soda pop that comes into Albuquerque,” he said.

Pettingill said his company is reimbursed for the majority of his fuel, but fears the rising fuel costs will spark price hikes on things from gravel to food, and eventually a “complete stoppage” because the company won’t be able to afford to make shipments.

He fears having to seriously consider shutting down his business if diesel prices climb past the $6 mark, because his equipment is older. And buying a Peterbilt truck would be out of the question because there aren’t any available, he said.

Planning ahead

Pettingill already maps out shipping routes because of his company’s fuel costs.

“It’s taking over $1,000 to fill up a fuel tank right now. It used to cost us $350-$400,” he said. “A truck carries about 300 gallons. Multiple that time $5.32, and there’s your total.”

Because his duties entail traveling across New Mexico and to and from neighboring states like Colorado, Arizona and Texas, Rodriguez tries to plan his routes ahead of time. That way, he can be smart about stopping for fuel and when he may have to pay road taxes in states like Arizona. Rodriguez also tries to put at least 100 gallons of gasoline into his truck to help compensate for road tax costs, in case he make stops there.

There’s extra motivation to make sure business stays alive.

“I’ve had the same customers for over 20 years. I’d hate to leave my customers hanging,” Pettingill said. “There’s nobody out there to take my place right now.”

Frese’s motivation is simpler.

“For us, it’s 100 percent livelihood. There’s not really a point where we can say ‘We can’t,’ ” she said.