Truckers' pain at the pump being passed to consumers

Posted March 3, 2011 5:09 p.m. EST
Updated March 4, 2011 6:44 a.m. EST

— It can be painful enough to fill up at the pump, but the pain is likely to spread to other parts of the economy. People who deliver the goods from the factories to the store shelves are also scrambling to keep up with the price spike.

"The other day, it was a half a tank, and it was $660. When I get to $700, I usually just stop," said professional truck driver Doug Lee.

While regular drivers pay about $3.50 for unleaded regular, truckers are paying about $3.80 for diesel. Truckers buy hundreds of gallons at a time, in a vehicle that might get 10 or 11 miles a gallon, and the extra fuel costs wipe away their profits.

Gas prices drove Lee's dad out of the trucking business a couple years ago.

"He went from four trucks to two to one, and then eventually said, 'I can't do it anymore.' (He) wasn't making any money," Lee said.

William Walsh owns Ninalita Trucking, a Cary company with a fleet of 13 trucks, and said he has budgeted an extra 30 percent for fuel costs this year.

"Right now, it's scaring everybody to death," he said. "I'm going to be meeting with several of my bigger customers this afternoon to plead for more money."

When his customers have to pay more to haul their freight, consumers end up getting the bill.

"As you purchase these goods at the store, you're going to see an increase. The cost of operating is eventually passed to the consumer," said Crystal Collins, president of the North Carolina Trucking Association.

Lee said he isn't worried about losing his dream job of being a truck driver.

"You're always going to need trucks. You're always going to need someone to deliver the food and the gas," he said.

Trucking companies are asking drivers to go easy on the throttle, use cruise control and stop idling when they're parked.