I just returned from Atlanta where a gas shortage is creating havoc. At one point, I became mired in a line of cars when I simply attempted to turn into my hotel parking lot. My path was blocked by a horde of aggressive, petrol-starved motorists, all emotionally invested in reaching the corner gas station.
The lead news story that day was about a man who punched a
woman in the face during a fuel-seeking frenzy, so I wasn’t about to line-jump.
My hand-to-hand combat skills place me distinctly in the “run for help”
From the perspective of someone from Michigan, where gas is
still plentiful, I found the shortage scary. Motorists would actually follow
tankers delivering gas and proceed to suck dry every drop of fuel until the
station went dark like most of its competitors.
No doubt these fuel shortages in the Southeast caused major
problems for those in the construction trades. I saw plenty of contractor
vehicles stuck in those long gas lines.
But gas supply is only a small part of our problem. The
bigger challenge is how higher fuel costs are changing our businesses.
Last week I received an advanced copy of a new survey
Supply House Timesmagazine on fuel savings. Nearly 76% of
the respondents were wholesalers or distributors, as would be expected. The
other 24% were a combination of contractors, manufacturers, and reps.
Supply House Times’survey asked a few basic
questions, such as “To what extent has the run-up in fuel prices impacted your
business ability to earn a reasonable profit?” Keep in mind this included all
fuel prices, not just fuel for vehicles.
• 1% said higher prices had a positive impact
• 13% said little to no impact
• 73% said moderate negative impact
• 12% said severe negative impact
Of the 299 respondents to this national survey, 85% are
experiencing hardship because of fuel costs. Here are some ways respondents
said they are combating these costs right now (future actions presented in
• 32% (35% in the future) are moderating temperatures in
their offices to reduce fuel use
• 15% (17%) are moderating temperatures in the manufacturing
or warehouse space
• 49% (42%) are reducing business travel
• 15% (34%) have switched to more fuel-efficient work
• 7% (15%) are allowing employees to work a four-day,
• 3% (7%) are allowing employees to work from home
• 5% (9%) are helping organize employee car pools
• 24% (12%) are doing nothing
Equally interesting were the open-ended questions that
allowed survey participants to share what else they are doing. Dozens wrote
that they are adding fuel surcharges to customers’ bills, adding delivery
charges or raising their overall prices. Others said they are working harder on
logistics and cost-control measures.
• “Cut delivery areas. Institute small fuel service charge”
• “Asked for voluntary reduction of vehicle use”
• “Added GPS to all vehicles; set gas card limits”
• “Re-engineered cooling and roofing”
• “Offer raffle prizes for employee carpool/mass transit”
• “Limit delivery to two days a week”
• “Reduce service area to 60 miles”
These changes will make it harder for everyone in the
construction field to do business. For example, if you are a contractor or
facility manager, your favorite wholesaler may deliver only on certain days, or
perhaps not to sites outside newly reduced service areas.
Have high fuel prices caused you to change your business
procedures? I’d love to know. Post your comments to this blog or e-mail me at