Talkin' Torque: Are Driving Habits Related To Fuel Prices?

November 2021 Column, Feature Brady L. Kay

This article originally appeared in the October 2021 issue.

The other night my wife asked me what I was doing and I told her I was scrolling through the GasBuddy app checking on the current price of diesel. “Didn’t you just fill up your truck the other day?” she asked. She was right, I had just filled up, but I was still checking to see what diesel fuel was going for…in another state.

I know it’s odd, but I like to check fuel prices regularly to see not only what the local stations are charging, but curiosity gets the best of me and I start checking places all around the country just for fun.

Speaking of price gauging, can anyone explain to me why diesel fuel this summer was going for $2.85 a gallon in places such as Miami, Fla., and Knoxville, Tenn., yet on the same day it was going for $3.99 a gallon in Las Vegas, Nev., and Los Angeles, Calif.? I understand winder blends will drive up the price of diesel, but I’m talking about prices near the $4 a gallon range in August!

Another question I have is why is there a 56-cents-a-gallon difference on the price of diesel between stations in my hometown right now? I fully understand that talking about fuel prices makes me sound like an old man, but how can the price fluctuate this much? How can the price of diesel be over 50 cents a gallon less on the same day, in the same town?

With the price of fuel fluctuating so much, our driving habits are probably changing a little and I admit I step a little lighter on the pedal after the pump automatically shuts off after reaching the $100 mark and asks for my credit card again.

Unlike a sled, dirt bike or even a boat, most of us use our trucks for work so despite the current price, we’re still going to drive. With a boat you can choose to keep it in your driveway next weekend if you feel an arm [and] a leg is asking too much at the pump. But do the fuel postings at your local station determine your driving habits, or is it just me? When fuel gets over the $4 mark I tend to sheepishly coast a little more in the slow lane. But watch the price drop 50 cents and now I’m revving up at stoplights and looking for trouble.

In reality I should just be looking for a happy balance and trying to keep my foot out of it. Now if you’re not going to get on it every once in awhile then what’s the point of owning a diesel truck in the first place? But depending on how often you fill up, the difference really isn’t enough to make you want to ever park it.

If you put 25 gallons of fuel in at $4.25 a gallon, your tab will run you $106.25. This can be discouraging and you might drive like a grandpa as you leave the pumps. You come back in two weeks and put another 25 gallons in, but this time it’s “only” $3.75 a gallon. So to celebrate you leave some tread on the payment as you’re pulling out. In reality you only saved just over $12 the second time, which is significant, but really not enough to justify such a huge difference in your driving habits. Simply put, we’re never going to see an end to the random spikes in fuel prices that seem to come out of nowhere, but don’t let that influence your mood. Find a happy balance between grandpa-like driving and leaving tread at every stoplight and you’ll be fine. With that said, I’m still going to continue checking the fuel prices around the country. There are worse addictions in the world; don’t judge.  

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