While fuel costs have been the second largest operating expense for truckers—labor expenses have been the largest—for some carriers that picture is being reversed, according to ATA. Association president and CEO Bill Graves claims these are the highest prolonged fuel prices in history.

Using current diesel fuel forecasts as a basis, ATA says trucking will spend $135 billion for fuel during the year. If that figure holds true, it represents a jump of $22 billion over 2007 costs.

"The trucking industry is making great strides in its efforts to reduce overall fuel consumption,” claims Graves. “But an affordable supply of diesel fuel is imperative to keep our trucks moving. There is little to suggest that fuel prices will decline any time soon. Yet every day, ATA hears new stories from its members about how escalating fuel prices are hurting their businesses and affecting their livelihood."

Over the past five years costs for filling fuel tanks on typical tractor-trailers have climbed 116%, adding $615, according to ATA. The Association points out that, "Because trucks haul 70% of all freight tonnage, rising fuel costs have the potential to increase the cost of everything transported by truck, including food, retail and manufactured goods."

The ATA is calling on the US Congress and Bush administration to address the "crisis situation" and move immediately to take steps to increase the diesel fuel supply.