Businesses Feel Pinch of High Gas Prices

Businesses Feel Pinch of High Gas Prices

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PROVO, Utah (AP) -- Some Utah County businesses are starting to feel the pinch from record-high fuel prices this summer.

Some trucking companies are raising rates, but grocery store chains say they're absorbing the increased fuel costs for now and aren't passing them on to consumers.

Regular unleaded gasoline no goes for $1.76 in the Provo-Orem area, up from $1.45 a gallon last August.

Trucking companies, such as MST Trucking of Salt Lake City, impose fuel surcharges to offset costs of delivering freight, MST controller Roger Ashton said.

Fuel surcharges, which are a percentage of the freight cost, kick in when the national average prices of diesel posted by the Department of Energy exceed $1.15 a gallon, said Gene Van Orden, director of traffic for DATS Trucking Inc. of St. George.

The average diesel price in Utah is about $1.71 a gallon, according to the Department of Energy.

"Hopefully, fuel surcharges will help offset the impact of higher diesel costs. But trucking companies can't pass all the fuel surcharges to the customer," said David Creer, executive director of Salt Lake City-based Utah Truckers Association.

Ashton agreed that the surcharges are not enough to cover the recent sharp increases in fuel.

Other workers who drive on the job, such as pizza delivery drivers, also are feeling the pinch.

In addition to receiving minimum wage and tips from customers, pizza delivery drivers at establishments like Pizza Hut also receive a per-delivery stipend of 50 cents, said Jason Jensen, manager of a Pizza Hut store.

Jensen, who said he received a growing volume of complaints from his drivers in recent months, empathizes with them, but his efforts to obtain a higher stipend for his workers have been unsuccessful.

Smith's Food and Drug said it will not pass the higher fuel costs on to its customers at this time.

"Fuel costs are a small part of our business costs. We expect fuel price fluctuations from time to time and have factored that into our business costs," said Marsha Gilford, Smith's spokeswoman.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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