The last several years have seen meaningful swings in the cost of diesel fuel and gasoline – During the first, second, third, and fourth quarters of 2012, our total vehicle fuel costs were approximately $10.6, $10.8, $10.8, and $10.3 million, respectively. During the first, second, third, and fourth quarters of 2011, our total vehicle fuel costs were approximately $8.6, $10.5, $9.8, and $9.8 million, respectively. The changes resulted from variations in fuel costs, variations in the service levels provided to our stores from our distribution centers, changes in the number of vehicles at our store locations, and changes in the number of other sales centered vehicles as a result of store openings and the expansion of our non-store sales force. These fuel costs include the fuel utilized in our distribution vehicles (semi-tractors, straight trucks, and sprinter trucks) which is recorded in cost of sales and the fuel utilized in our store delivery and other sales centered vehicles which is included in operating and administrative expenses (the split in the last several years has been approximately 50:50 between distribution and store and other sales centered use).
The average per gallon fuel costs (in actual dollars) and the percentage change (on a year-over-year basis) for the last three years was as follows:
|Per gallon average price||Q1||Q2||Q3||Q4||Annual Average 1|
|Diesel fuel||$ 3.92||3.98||3.88||4.05||3.96|
|Diesel fuel||$ 3.60||4.04||3.90||3.87||3.85|
|Diesel fuel||$ 2.89||3.06||2.96||3.14||3.01|
|Per gallon price change||Q1||Q2||Q3||Q4||Annual 1|
1 Average of the four quarterly figures contained in the table.
Income taxes – Incomes taxes, as a percentage of earnings before income taxes, were approximately 37.6% and 37.8% for 2012 and 2011, respectively. As our international business and profits grow over time, the lower income tax rates in those jurisdictions, relative to the United States, have begun to lower our effective tax rate.OPERATIONAL WORKING CAPITAL: The year-over-year comparison and the related dollar and percentage changes related to accounts receivable and inventories were as follows:
|Balance at December 31:||Twelve Month Dollar Change||Twelve Month Percentage Change|
|Accounts receivable, net||$ 372,159||338,594||270,133||33,565||68,461||9.9%||25.3%|
|Operational working capital 1||$ 1,087,542||984,746||827,502||102,796||157,244||10.4%||19.0%|
|Sales in last two months||$ 468,696||451,069||370,582||17,627||80,487||3.9%||21.7%|