Gas Prices Cutting Deep Into Keller School Transport Business
KELLER (CBSDFW.COM) – It was nearly $60 for Rushelle Wetzel to fill up her mini-van in North Fort Worth Thursday. It was more discouraging to know she had five more than needed gas.
“We’re just going to have to, figure it out,” she said.
Wetzel owns a small student transportation business that was booming last year. Following a decision by Keller ISD to remove most bus services due to budget cuts, parents turned to the independent company to get students to school. She and her husband Chris bought three new vehicles to meet demand. They planned to expand for next year. But now that’s on hold while they figure out how to afford to keep operating what they have.
“We’re concerned about the future because the gas prices have increased and its already affected us,” she said.
Gas prices in the Fort Worth Arlington area jumped another seven cents in the last week according to AAA’s weekly price survey. It’s the ninth straight week of price hikes. Thursday the area average hovered at $3.58 per gallon. Chris Wetzel said the average fuel costs for their six vans jumped 30-percent from November to January.
Residents can cut back on driving, but transportation businesses like Wetzel’s have no choice but to keep logging miles five days a week. They have reduced office costs, moved to paperless billing and communication. They are researching alternative fuel overhauls for their four 12-passenger vans but the cost is prohibitive. Natural gas vehicles are an option too but fueling stations aren’t convenient. They are resisting price hikes in order to keep their relatively new customer base.
Customers are aware they are now actually saving money by paying someone to take their kids to school. It wasn’t until prices spiked that Amanda Peet realized how much gas she was burning taking her kids to school.
“Wait in line, to go pick him up. Go pick up my daughter late at her school and then head back which is another 30 minutes just go through traffic,” she said.
Delivery and transportation business often start adding fuel surcharges when costs climb too him. Smiley is resisting that for now.
“We’re going to hold off as long as we can,” Wetzel said. “We’re basically trying to reduce other costs in our company, so we don’t have to do that.”
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