Vending and amusement operators who were bracing for gas prices to hit $5 a gallon or more this summer might be able to relax. The price of a gallon of gas has declined for three straight weeks.
Some surveys have placed the national average somewhere south of $4. One government study put the national average at $3.87 a gallon, though many areas continue to see $4 or more per gallon at the pumps.
A drop in fuel prices, no matter how marginal, is good news for route operators who have seen rising fuel costs cutting into their bottom lines. Over the past year, some operators have extended service schedules multiple times to keep travel costs down.
The reason for the unexpected decline in gas prices is difficult to pinpoint. Some experts say it's the decision to delay the closing of the Sunoco refinery in Philadelphia. That plant is reportedly processes some 330,000 barrels of crude oil a day. Another reason, according to analysts, is the apparent easing of tensions over Iran, a key factor placing upward pressure on prices earlier this year. There is also less demand by drivers who have changed driving habits and switched to more fuel-efficient vehicles.
Whatever the reason, the unexpected drop in prices is good news for operators who have customarily seen the price at the pump rise with summer temperatures. It is also good news for the economic recovery, which economists say has been slowed by high-energy costs.