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Rising gas prices hit transportation-centered industries hard

Prices up 15 cents per gallon since last month
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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When gas prices rise, the Mid Placer Public Schools Transportation Agency — which purchases 100,000 gallons of fuel a year — feels it. “It is significant. Labor and fuel are our two biggest expenses and fuel is the most volatile,” said Martin Ward, chief executive officer for the transportation agency. “We are talking 10,000 gallons a month. A change in 50 cents per gallon is significant.” In February, the average price of regular, unleaded gasoline went up 15 cents from last month, according to a press release from AAA of Northern California. Auburn post office officials say the cost of gas is driving some U.S. Postal outlets to look for more fuel-efficient vehicles. The transportation agency is a non-profit joint powers authority between five local school districts, including the Placer Union Joint High School District, Loomis School District, Colfax Elementary School District, Ackerman Charter School District and Alta-Dutch Flat School District. It spends an average of $35,000 a month on diesel fuel to run its 22 routes, Ward said. Currently, Ward said he analyzes bids each month and picks the most competitive offer to keep costs at a minimum. Other options, like going with a fixed rate on each gallon from a single supplier and contracting with Placer County are both more costly. This year the agency projected a safe estimate for the cost of fuel was $3.90 per gallon. So far, fuel has cost an average of $3 to $3.50 per gallon, even though the district doesn’t pay the same taxes as consumers, he said. The buses fill-up on-site at the agency’s bus yard, where fuel is kept in a truck that can hold 12,000 gallons of fuel. Some post offices look for better vehicle Auburn Post Master Richard Cook said the high cost of gas has added to the deficit the U.S. Postal Service is already facing. “We drive 4 million miles per day and used 650 million gallons of fuel in 2010,” Cook said. He said some areas are testing the use of cars that run on something other than gas, including Flex Fuel E85 ethanol and biodiesel fuels made by Propel. “I know a lot of offices have gone to the Propel,” Cook said. “Rocklin is almost exclusively Propel.” Cook said right now most postal service vehicles use regular unleaded gasoline, which drivers pump at a gas station, not a special fueling yard. He said there are currently no plans for the Auburn fleet of postal vehicles to be replaced with more fuel-efficient vehicles. “Every route is different because one, they use different levels of tanks and two, the distance of the routes is different,” Cook said. “How often they fill up is the huge difference. There has been a ton of articles on what the postal service is doing to conserve gas. They are also doing some great experiments on all electric vehicles.” AAA of Northern California spokesperson Matt Skryja said gasoline prices are influenced by investor’s activity, so they are ever-changing. “They are looking for any influences, perceived or real, to both supply and demand. These influences impact their buying behavior,” Skryja said. “Positive economic news tends to inspire investors’ buying, as they anticipate increased demand. The reverse is true with poor economic news.” Reach Sara Seyydin at saras@goldcountrymedia.com.