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Fuel prices hitting commuters, delivery drivers and more
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Fuel prices hitting commuters, delivery drivers and more

A check of the national gas prices on March 15 showed the travel organization AAA reporting regular gasoline at $4.31. AAA shoed Minnesota’s average gas price to be $3.94. The cost of fuel is even higher for those who drive diesel vehicles. AAA reports a national average of $5.11 for diesel.

WTIP spoke with some consumers at the gas pumps last week and in this report, we talked to some folks who have to drive to make a living.

Cook County is large geographically, so there are many who have long commutes, such as down the Gunflint Trail or from Schroeder to Grand Marais. WTIP caught up with one commuter to see how the surge in gas prices is affecting her. LeeAnna Deschampe drives from Grand Portage to Grand Marais five or six days a week for work at a local grocery store or for her children’s appointments and activities.

Deschampe is resigned to the price—she said she has to make the drive, so she has to pay whatever the price is. However, she is considering trading in her SUV for a smaller car, a “beater,” she said for the commute.

She is coping with the higher prices the best she can and said she appreciated advice received from customers at the grocery store on how to possibly increase mileage. She said she hopes things like keeping tires properly inflated, not driving with windows open, driving steady speeds, and reducing the load in the vehicle will help in the meantime.

Delivery vehicles of all kinds are greatly impacted by the increased prices. WTIP talked to David Howe of North Shore Timber Products who supplies firewood to customers in the region. Howe declined an on-air interview, but told WTIP that he has not yet set prices for his kiln-dried firewood because of the uncertainty of fuel costs. He said he hopes the high prices are just a “blip,” but if the cost remains high he may have to make changes in his operations. He said he is considering adding a fuel surcharge and restricting deliveries to just Cook County, not beyond.

Clark Bloomquist of Colvill has two jobs—he owns North Coast Towing and drives a semi, hauling pulpwood for a local logger. Bloomquist said for his logging job his mileage varies, but he estimates he drives 1,500 miles a week. And those miles are logged in a diesel vehicle.

Bloomquist said lumber mills sometimes make fuel adjustments when buying wood, but it is not enough to keep up.

WTIP asked Bloomquist if there is anything he can do to reduce costs. Many people driving passenger cars are thinking of getting smaller or electric vehicles. Bloomquist said with the technology to haul heavy loads like lumber that is not feasible.

WTIP also reached out to Cook County Home Center, which offers free delivery of its products to all ends of Cook County and sometimes Lake County. We spoke with Home Center Operations Manager Dan Fernlund who tells us that the average mileage for delivery drivers is 1,500 to 2,000 miles each week. The company has four delivery trucks—two that use diesel; two gasoline.

WTIP asked Fernlund if Cook County Home Center is considering adding some sort of fuel surcharge like some companies. Fernlund said not yet but noted that the vendors that sell materials to the Home Center have already done so. He said Cook County Home Center hopes to avoid adding a fuel surcharge by consolidating deliveries.

WTIP also asked Fernlund if the company can switch to smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles. Fernlund also said that is not feasible at this time as the delivery trucks carry very heavy loads.

And back to Clark Bloomquist in his role as owner of North Coast Towing, another company that travels all over Cook and Lake counties, as well as on tow jobs to Duluth or the Twin Cities. He estimates the mileage on the tow trucks at about 500 miles per week. The tow vehicle also runs on diesel.

Asked if the increase will be passed on to customers, Bloomquist said unfortunately yes. He has added a surcharge of 25 cents per mile to his billing.

Like the logging or hardware delivery trucks, Bloomquist said electric or smaller vehicles are suitable for the job at this time.

WTIP reached out to a number of area businesses that are impacted by high gas and diesel prices. Most decline an on-air interview. However, they voiced sentiments similar to Bloomquist’s final comment.

Bloomquist said, “It’s hurting everybody, across the board. So hopefully it gets better.”

Click the interview below to hear more from these community members speaking with WTIP’s Rhonda Silence.