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Consumers hit on all sides as fuel prices skyrocket

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By The Staff

By SHARON GRAVES and AMANDA HENSLEY

The News-Democrat

An old saying in the trucking industry goes, “If you’ve got it, a truck brought it.”

While that’s still true today, it seems consumers can add to it: “If a truck brought it, you’re gonna pay more for it.”

With the cost of gasoline soaring near or above the $4-per-gallon mark nationwide, consumers’ pocketbooks are getting hit from all sides – not just at the pump.

The rising price of crude oil means higher gas, diesel and jet-fuel costs, which in turn increases the cost of shipping and delivering everything from raw materials to finished consumer products and food.

Petroleum-based fertilizers also are more expensive, translating to higher costs for farmers that also are passed along to consumers.

In fact, the cost of building or repairing the very roads and tarmacs used by the transportation industry is increasing because asphalt and other paving materials also are petroleum-based.

Businesses try to absorb costs

To compensate for the higher fuel costs, many local businesses have been forced to make changes – or simply “eat” the extra costs.

“We had to raise the commission we pay drivers for delivering,” said Jeff Hartung, manager of Carrollton’s Papa John’s Pizza. The store increased driver commissions by 45 cents in an effort to retain employees.

Also, Hartung said he has reduced the store’s delivery area by a third, asking customers who live outside the designated 5-mile delivery radius to meet drivers at specified locations to pick up their orders.

Amber Rowlett, who has worked with Papa John’s as a driver for two weeks, switched vehicles for the job. She started out driving a Chevrolet Blazer and now is driving a Corsica. Still, Rowlett estimates she spends $50 a week in gas for deliveries.

Drivers interviewed for this story said tips are down, overall, and what tips they do receive are not covering their fuel costs.

“It takes about every tip we get to pay for gas,” said Richard Robbins, who has been a driver for Papa John’s for a year. “We’ll have to deliver on bikes and buggies soon.”

Robbins has noticed he is making fewer deliveries and is enduring more fussing from customers who are asked to meet him at a closer spot. “They meet us and fuss about it, but they understand. If gas prices weren’t so high, I wouldn’t care to take it wherever.”

Hartung said the cost of ingredients for the foods on Papa John’s menu also has risen, as have delivery fees from the companies he buys from. For example, he said, the price of a case of cheese is scheduled to increase $4 in two weeks, and delivery charges will increase from $19 to $29 in July.