Moving Grain: Historic Drop in Crude Oil Prices Continues

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Diesel Fuel Prices Continue To Fall Amid Historic Drop in Crude Oil Futures Prices

For the week ending May 4, the U.S. average diesel fuel price decreased 3.8 cents from the previous week to $2.399 per gallon, 77.2 cents below the same week last year. Since mid-January diesel prices have fallen 68 cents. So far this year, March has shown the largest drop in monthly prices—a decline of nearly 30 cents per gallon in the 5-week month.

April diesel prices fell nearly 15 cents per gallon, responding in part to a historic drop in futures prices for crude oil, which traded in the negative for the first time since 1983. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the sharp decline in U.S. consumption of crude oil and petroleum products has led to an excess of imported and domestically produced crude oil volumes.

The excess volumes have filled U.S. storage to near capacity and put downward pressure on prices.

ATRI and OIDA Release Report on COVID-19’s Effects on Trucking

The American Trucking Research Institute and the Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association Foundation (OOIDA) jointly released a report on the effects of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on all trucking operations. Based on an April survey of ATRI and OOIDA membership, the report provides recommendations and guidance on future strategies in the event of another national disaster.

Some of the report’s key findings include the following:

  1. a significant decline in long haul trips, resulting from a decrease in container imports at ports;
  2. a more than doubling of local trips under 100 miles;
  3. increased difficulty for large fleets and owner-operators in finding truck parking;
  4. negative impacts on almost 70 percent of specialized and tank truck operations, with small fleets feeling the effects more than large fleets (e.g., much worse detention delays for small fleets than for large fleets).

Grain Inspections Down Slightly; Texas Gulf Rebounds

For the week ending April 30, total inspections of grain (corn, wheat, and soybeans) for export from all major U.S. export regions were 2.1 million metric tons (mmt).

Grain News on AgFax

Total grain inspections were down 4 percent from the previous week, down 2 percent from last year, and down 18 percent from the 3-year average. Inspections increased 6 percent for wheat and 13 percent corn. The increases, however, could not offset the 43-percent drop in soybean inspections, due to lower shipments to Asia and Latin America.

Grain inspections increased 7 percent in the Pacific Northwest (PNW), but decreased 19 percent in the Mississippi Gulf. Despite the drop in overall inspections, Texas Gulf inspections jumped 80 percent, reflected by a 132-percent increase in Texas Gulf rail deliveries of grain to port. The increase in rail deliveries of grain was the highest since early April of last year.

Snapshots by Sector

Export Sales

For the week ending April 23, unshipped balances of wheat, corn, and soybeans totaled 23.4 million metric tons (mmt). This represented a 19-percent decrease in outstanding sales, compared to the same time last year. Net corn export sales were 1.357 mmt, up 87 percent from the past week.

Net soybean export sales were 1.078 mmt, up significantly from the previous week. Net weekly wheat export sales were 0.467 mmt, up 91 percent from the previous week.


U.S. Class I railroads originated 21,691 grain carloads during the week ending April 25. This was a 5-percent increase from the previous week, 14 percent less than last year, and 10 percent lower than the 3-year average.

Average May shuttle secondary railcar bids/offers (per car) were $149 below tariff for the week ending April 30. This was $39 less than last week and $59 lower than this week last year. There were no non-shuttle bids/offers this week.


For the week ending May 2, barge grain movements totaled 849,624 tons. This was 28 percent more than the previous week and 70 percent more than the same period last year.

For the week ending May 2, 534 grain barges moved down river—115 more barges than the previous week. There were 605 grain barges unloaded in New Orleans, 1 percent less than the previous week.


For the week ending April 30, 36 oceangoing grain vessels were loaded in the Gulf—33 percent more than the same period last year. Within the next 10 days (starting May 1), 42 vessels were expected to be loaded—37 percent fewer than the same period last year.

As of April 30, the rate for shipping a metric ton (mt) of grain from the U.S. Gulf to Japan was $36.00. This was 3 percent less than the previous week. The rate from PNW to Japan was $18.75 per mt, 3 percent less than the previous week.

Full report.

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