- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 20, 2003

Local small businesses that rely heavily on vehicles are adding surcharges to combat climbing gasoline prices.
The average price for a gallon of unleaded gas reached a record $1.72 this week nationwide and $1.71 in the Washington area.
Joe Kinneary, owner of an Alexandria moving company, this week began adding a 50-cent-per-mile charge to pay for diesel fuel.
"It's harder for us to swallow the high gas prices because we don't buy diesel in volume like a large corporation would with a tanker," said Mr. Kinneary, owner and founder of Gulliver's Movers. His company uses 20 diesel trucks.
Mr. Kinneary said he would eliminate the fee when prices drop, adding that the company is just beginning to emerge from its normal January-April lull.
Nationally, the average price of diesel rose to $1.75 per gallon, while the Washington average climbed from $1.83 a week ago to $1.93 this week.
Businesses typically add fees to help them cope with rising fuel prices, said Alfred Lagasse, executive vice president of Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association, a Kensington trade group for some 1,100 private passenger transportation companies.
"Companies other than taxicabs which have their fares regulated are simply adjusting their costs to break even with business," Mr. Lagasse said.
D.C. cabdrivers tomorrow will enact a temporary $1 surcharge on their base fee. The fare surcharge will last for 120 days, according to the D.C. Taxicab Commission.
Jeff Wingrove, owner of a 10-employee courier service in Northwest, added a $1 gasoline charge this week when prices "hit the breaking point."
"Up until now, our drivers and the company absorbed the costs of gas," said Mr. Wingrove, president of Metropolitan Delivery Corp. "But we're finally at a point where we have to pass the cost on to the customer to make up the losses."
Mr. Wingrove also cut back his fleet to the minimum of 35 to 45 independent drivers a week to cover area jobs.
He said he hopes to eliminate the charge in the next month.
"It's hard to attract new customers when you have to raise your rates."
Companies also are preparing for a slowdown in business at the beginning of a war with Iraq.
"We lost our bread-and-butter customers right at the beginning of the Afghanistan war, but things picked back up again, which is what we're preparing for now," said Jim Bryant, owner of Manassas Cab Co.
Business out of Washington Dulles International Airport has picked up for the cab company, but Mr. Bryant has warned his drivers about a drop in customers.
While rising gas prices have put a squeeze on his company, Mr. Bryant said the 200 independent drivers he contracts aren't seeking a fare increase.
"Our drivers have been busy enough that they have been able to take the costs, but it's something that they are intently watching," Mr. Bryant said.
Jonathan Lanthrop, owner of a one-truck moving operation in Riverdale, said gas fluctuations are part of the business.
"We're just at the high end of the gas-price spectrum that will pass," said Mr. Lanthrop, owner of Have Truck Will Haul Moving Service. He has no plans to add a fee.

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