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GASOLINE Rising fuel costs to be passed on to public



Published: Sat, August 20, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Tour buses and towing companies have been forced to add surcharges.

By DON SHILLING

VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR

Rising fuel costs are such a strain on businesses that they want some help from you.

That means paying more for services such as having a car towed or going on a bus tour.

"We have to raise our prices, or we'll have to close our doors," said Lorraine Sutton, owner of Sutton Motor Coach Tours in Boardman.

A few months ago, she raised prices for short trips by $5 to $10 a person and for longer trips by $11 to $15.

She also has been forced to cancel trips unless at least 40 people are going. Otherwise, trips that use the 47-passenger buses would lose money. The cutoff used to be between 20 and 25 people.

"These prices are affecting us more than anything has in the 58 years we've been in business," Sutton said.

Difficult decision

David Crump, owner of Crump's Towing in Boardman, said he resisted adding a fuel surcharge to bills until three weeks ago when he began adding $5 a trip.

"I don't think the public should have to pay, but someone has to pay for me to stay in business," he said.

Lisa Ellis, vice president of Fab Limousines in Austintown, said company officials are considering a surcharge for the limo buses, which get about 5 mpg, and the limo sport-utility vehicles.

"It's hard to raise prices around here. The market just doesn't hold it. People will just do without because we're a luxury item," she said.

To afford the higher fuel costs, Fab has had to delay buying new vehicles.

"You can't do that forever," she said.

Besides new limousines, the company also has delayed buying a new tour bus. It created a tour division in January with two buses and was planning to add a third this coming January.

Business owners who have increased prices are hoping their customers won't hold it against them.

Pervasive impact

"The general public has to understand that the rising price of fuel is affecting the prices of everything," Sutton said.

Costs are rising for many items that are shipped by truck, she said. For example, the price for having a part shipped in to fix a bus has tripled in recent months.

Schwebel Baking Co. has seen that firsthand as suppliers have tacked on fuel surcharges to deliver flour and other items to its bakeries, said Joe Schwebel, president of the Boardman-based company.

"It's had a big impact on our costs," he said.

The company hasn't yet added a fuel surcharge for bringing its bread to stores and restaurants, but that could happen, Schwebel said.

The average price of regular gasoline in the United States this week is $2.55 a gallon, up about 68 cents from a year ago, said the federal Energy Information Administration. Diesel prices are averaging $2.57, up 74 cents from a year ago.




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