PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Some contractors on South Dakota highway projects are having state government help absorb their changing fuel costs.

Fifteen of the 52 contracts returned so far this year are participating in the fuel adjustment program that the South Dakota Department of Transportation offers.

All of the department’s project contracts make it available. “The reason we have that in there is to share the risk,” state Transportation Secretary Joel Jundt said.

Prices generally are up quite a lot. DOT keeps track through a fuel-price index. No. 2 diesel for example that went for $1.68 a gallon at the start of 2021 was up to $4.27 in mid-May.

“Our hope would be that some of that stabilizes,” Jundt told the state Transportation Commission earlier this week.

He said fuel costs are a reason why many bids have been higher than the department’s estimates in recent months.

Contractors get a one-page fuel-adjustment form for choosing yes or no. They don’t explain why.

“Many contractors are able to contract their fuel and lock in pricing. This reduces their need to protect risk of increased cost,” DOT official Sam Weisgram said.

The numbers so far this year are “definitely higher than normal,” according to Weisgram, “but I can’t say exactly how much it is up over the average.”