Last month, we posted an article on the rate changes that go into effect on your April billing statement. This month, we wanted to give a little more background on the reasons for the changes. As we stated in last month's article, the last change in rates was six years ago, in 2017. Since then, and especially over the previous three years, much has changed in the cost of goods, materials, fuel, and just about everything else. And very little of the change has been for the better.
Inflation is higher than we've seen in decades. You'd have to go back to 1981 to see a higher annual inflation rate. But inflation doesn't tell the whole story. We have all seen the cost of feeding our families skyrocket over the past two or three years. Milk, bread, and eggs have all exceeded more than 14%, with the average increase in groceries over 12%. The cost of vehicles, new and used, as well as vehicle maintenance, are up over 10%. Health insurance rose by over 20%. The list goes on.
Our industry hasn't been immune to these changes. Most of the materials and equipment we use daily to build and maintain a reliable electric system have seen increases that can only be described as astronomical. I've included a chart showing the increases in some basic equipment needed for a safe, efficient, and reliable electric system. These include poles, transformers, conductors, conduits, and several others.
The fuel cost for our bucket and digger derrick trucks is also higher than it was three years ago. The cost of fuel also means that the cost of services such as vegetation management and pole inspections, which contractors provide, has also increased as those contractors have had to deal with these same issues.
We've worked to push a change in rates out as far as possible because we know its impact on our members. But with costs increasing on basically every front, we've reached a point where a change is necessary. We will continue to strive to control costs where we can while still providing the safe, reliable service you've come to expect. We also want you to know that even though these changes are an increase, Dixie Electric's rates will be comparable with other utilities in the surrounding areas and across the state.
Maintaining safe, reliable service will always be our primary goal, but it does come at a cost. It's hard to predict how inflation and pricing will impact our business in the future. Still, we will always work to control costs as much as possible while protecting our cooperative's financial integrity and stability.
As always, thank you for being a valued member of Dixie Electric Power Association. Even in these uncertain times, we look forward to continuing to be your trusted energy provider.