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June 10, 2008 · Updated 4:15 PM
From big rigs to heavy machinery, RVs to boats, and even farm fields to grocery store shelves, daily lives run on fuel consumption.
With gas and oil prices still sitting top-heavy, many are discovering tricks of the trade to save pennies while fueling up for work and play.
For Tucker Westerlund, co-owner of West Sound Trucking, big rigs are his life.
Even after 30 years on the roads, its still the only job that drives him to go to work each morning a happy man. Now with diesel prices at more than $4 per gallon, his attitude is seeing some wear and tear.
Its the only job Ive ever had where I cant wait to go to work each day, Westerlund said. Its not just a livelihood, its my life. Thats why its just so frustrating with the gas prices being what they are. We just have no control.
Westerlund, who works seven days a week, said fuel used to be 17 percent of the total costs to West Sound Trucking. Now, its more than 30 percent.
West Sound trucks pull 32 plus tons of gravel product, rock and sand and on average get four miles to the gallon, Westerlund said.
Instead of raising prices, West Sound and many other local businesses are looking into ways to save.
The big thing is, dont speed, he said. Theres no excess idle time either. If its going to be longer than three minutes we shut it down.
Westerlund said he also shortened the warm-up period to 10 minutes instead of 20 minutes.
Every little bit, I think, helps some, he said. Truckers are paid by the hour so we need to be as efficient as possible. The big thing is do the speed limit but dont waste customers time.
Hourly rates for West Sound Trucking rose in December but havent kept up with fuel increases.
We could stand to charge more but with the economy the way it is, its a moot point, he said. If you kept up with the fuel costs, you could price yourself completely out of a job.
Westerlund said the ability to save and be efficient is limited by North Kitsaps geography.
It sounds a little strange, but in all the places Ive worked, Kitsap County is the worst because our travel isnt long and flat. Its short but really hilly, he said. Fuel mileage isnt as good on hills as it is on long, straight stretches of road.
Ted Bowman, chief operating officer of Fred Hill Materials, has been in the trucking business 28 years. Fuel price increases are forcing him to run his 85 trucks more efficiently as well.
On average the trucks get between three to five-and-a-half miles per gallon and hold 150 gallons of fuel. Like West Sound Trucking, all the trucks are fueled up at night. You can imagine how much we spend, he said.
Since 2007 there has been a 45 percent increase in fuel cost, he said; 35 percent accumulated since January.
Bowman said he meets with Martin Blevins, Fred Hill chief financial officer, more often now to talk about fuel prices and costs. We budgeted for 2008 but we were not even close. There are options such as contracts, but you lock yourself down. Its a gamble.
Fuel also affects delivery costs of products.
Suppliers run the crushers, Bowman said. They manufacture and transport the products here so we get fuel surcharges.
Peggy Barnett, office manager for Tuckers Topsoil, which specializes in recycling yard debris into mulch, said the delivery surcharge is more than the product prices.
Its a major problem because we dont know what is going to happen with the fuel costs, she said. I dont see it going down anytime soon but its a problem because we cant give an estimate for summer. We can commit to material costs but cant commit to delivery costs. It all depends on fuel price.
Barnett said loaders and excavators go through 1,000 gallons of off-road diesel per week.
Westerlund, Bowman and Barnett all mentioned looking into biofuels as an alternative.
Never in the past would we have even considered it, Barnett said. But we dont know what prices are going to do so we might as well investigate it.
Westerlund said its not just fuel costs that are the problem any more.
Fuel drives the cost of the public as a whole, he said.
Produce is delivered by trucks to most grocery stores said Ron Nakata, director of retail operations for Central Market in Poulsbo and Town and Country on Bainbridge Island.
Simply put, it (the fuel price increase) shows up through multiple ways, he said. It creates a higher cost for goods or a fuel surtax is charged.
Nakata said he is discussing strategies for reducing the number of delivery trucks that drop goods off at the stores on a daily basis.
We are really trying to be proactive about it and develop an internal process for combating the rising cost of fuel and rising food costs, he said.
Recreation lovers are also watching for ways to save.
Mary Jane and Mel Ohl of Poulsbo belong to the North Kitsap chapter of Good Sams, a national RV group. They participate in travels year-round.
Its definitely painful but I dont think people will stop RVing, Mel said. I think they will just stay longer at one spot and make destinations closer to home.
The Ohls, both retired, said the biggest problem is that they now have fixed incomes but the gas prices continue to fluctuate.
Many recreational boaters feel the same way. More trips are closer to home.
Jannesse Petersen, bookkeeper at the Port of Poulsbo, said she used to see a lot more boaters traveling to Alaska.
I think its a lot like your recreational motor home or minivan user, people would just rather stay closer to home, she said.
Although the pocketbooks are feeling the pinch, Bowman mustered enough spirit to poke some fun at the issue.
Please get these fuel prices lowered, Bowman said. Tell everyone I broke down and started crying. Thats fine. Im a modern man.