The government shutdown has forced the Energy Information Administration to cancel publication of its gas and diesel price update, a key index for trucking fuel surcharges.

“EIA will need to cease operations and furlough EIA staff at the end of the day on Oct. 11,” said spokesman Jonathan Cogan in a statement. 

The agency will not publish the fuel data while its employees are furloughed, he said.

The Gasoline and Diesel Fuel Update is used by many fleets as an index for their fuel surcharge programs.

Carriers reference the report in their contracts with shippers, keying a change in their rates to an up-or-down swing in the data.

The report comes out on Monday afternoons, except on holidays. This Monday is Columbus Day, so the report would have come out on Tuesday.

For the coming week, at least, carriers that rely on the EIA report will have to contact their customers and come to terms on how to handle price movements, said Glen Sokolis, president of Sokolis Group, a fuel management company.

“I think it could have a devastating impact for trucking companies if the price of diesel fuel goes up, and an adverse effect for shippers if the price goes down,” Sokolis said.

“It could be a real mess for a lot of companies.”

Fortunately, surcharge changes typically are triggered by 4-cent changes in fuel prices, and prices have been fairly stable for the past month or so, he said.

Also, there are other sources for fuel price information.

Brian Crotty, CEO of the Oil Price Information Service, said his company is offering a more robust version of the EIA report.

The EIA report is based on a survey of 400 sources, including truck stops and other diesel outlets. The OPIS report includes data from 5,000 truck stops and other sources as well, Crotty said.

The EIA report is free. The OPIS report costs $495 a month

Cogan said the diesel outlets that report to EIA should continue to submit their data. The agency will process it after the furlough ends, he said.

Congressional negotiators are talking about ways to end the government shutdown but no plan has yet emerged.