Diesel & DEF Shipments Halted By Railroads

  • 4 min read

The intricacies of the fuel industry, particularly diesel fuel and diesel exhaust fluid (DEF), are experiencing a ripple effect that might not be immediately apparent but holds serious implications for trucking, pricing, and even construction. In this blog post, we delve into recent developments that raise questions about the future of fuel availability and its potential impact on various sectors.

Railroad Restriction: A Puzzling Move

The stage is set with Union Pacific Railroad, a major player in the railway industry, instructing truck stop networks like Pilot and Flying J to slash their deliveries of fuel and DEF by a substantial 20 to 30 percent. This directive, originating from Union Pacific, has left many puzzled about the motivations behind such a significant cutback.

The Competitive Edge: Railroads vs. Trucking

Speculation arises as to whether this move is a strategic decision by the railroad company to gain a competitive edge. The logic follows that if Union Pacific can limit the fuel and DEF supply to trucking companies, which are direct competitors in the transportation industry, it might tilt the scales in favor of rail transport. While this remains speculative, the circumstances raise eyebrows.

Quantifying the Impact: A Domino Effect

The magnitude of the reduction becomes clearer when we crunch the numbers. A single rail car, subject to the 20 to 30 percent reduction, holds enough DEF for 3,000 trucks. Extrapolating this, a considerable portion of trucking capacity, approximately five million road miles, is directly affected by just one rail car’s reduced load.

DEF: Vital for Modern Trucking

Diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) plays a crucial role in modern trucking. Required in all trucks manufactured in 2010 and later, DEF helps reduce emissions. In some regions like California, registering a truck built before 2010 is not even possible. For trucks from 2010 onward, running out of DEF is not just an inconvenience—it renders the truck inoperable. The onboard computer systems shut down the engine if DEF is depleted.

Supply Chain Quandary: Diesel Fuel and DEF by Rail

Diesel fuel and DEF face unique challenges in their supply chain. Unlike pipelines that transport diesel fuel in some parts of the country, certain regions, including parts of the southwest and the Pacific Northwest, rely on rail transport exclusively. DEF, with no pipelines, is often manufactured on-site, adding another layer of complexity.

The Electric Vehicle Conundrum

As these supply chain disruptions unfold, the electric vehicle (EV) sector, often touted as a potential solution, faces its own hurdles. A startup specializing in EV trucks for commercial use, Electric Last Mile Solutions, is on the verge of running out of funds within a month. This development underscores the challenges faced by the EV industry.

Implications on Inflation and Supply Chain

With diesel fuel and DEF at the heart of transportation, construction, and various industries, the ongoing restrictions raise crucial questions. How will the limitations imposed by Union Pacific impact inflation and supply chain dynamics? Will the reduced availability of diesel fuel and DEF lead to a more severe housing crisis and affect the pricing of essential goods?

Community Insights: Share Your Thoughts

In this complex landscape, we invite industry professionals, truck operators, builders, and consumers to share their observations and experiences. Have you encountered challenges in accessing diesel fuel or DEF? Are you witnessing price fluctuations or delays in your region? How are these developments affecting your business or daily life? Join the conversation by sharing your thoughts and insights in the comments below.

As we navigate these uncertainties, collective insights can contribute to a better understanding of the multifaceted challenges posed by the evolving dynamics of the fuel industry. Stay engaged, stay informed, and let your voice be heard in this dialogue on diesel fuel, DEF, and the future of transportation.

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