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San Diego tow truck, Uber, semi drivers watch their gas prices

Look askance at Teslas

Courtney and Leon Copeland: "We have tried to work on our route density."
Courtney and Leon Copeland: "We have tried to work on our route density."

Courtney and Leon Copeland of San Diego Scoop Squad, a pet waste removal company, felt the highest spike in gas prices over the weekend.

"We are spending about $60 more per week on gas between our two vehicles," Courtney said to me. "We have not implemented any pricing increases for our customers since we believe gas prices will eventually go back down."

I spoke to Courtney on March 20, shortly after they used $40 worth of gas in their SUV and sedan to clean up 15 yards around the county. According to American Automobile Association (AAA), the average price of super unleaded gas in San Diego last weekend was $6.208. Last year, a few months before the Copelands launched their dog poop removal and yard-deodorizing business, the average price for super unleaded gas was $4.213. "We have tried to work on our route density to ensure we are more efficient with our time and gas usage by routing our customers as close together based on their location."

Ali of Guardian Towing: "Our contract prices, which is most of our business, is locked into a price set by the city and state."

Jonathan Islas is a hybrid-Prius driver whom I met on the Uber Lyft San Diego Drivers Facebook page.

"I spend about $20 in gas per day, and I get like 40 miles per gallon," Islas said to me on March 20. On that Sunday, San Diego's average for regular unleaded gas was $5.911 per gallon, according to AAA, about $1.17 higher than last month's average of $4.74 per gallon.

According to the ride.guru site, full-time Lyft and Uber drivers "easily" drive "more than 1000 miles a week." If Islas drove 4000 miles a month at the current $5.911 per gallon price, he'd spend about $591 in gas a month; if he'd drive 4000 miles at the previous average price of $4.74, per gallon, he'd pay about $474. Islas is losing about $117 a month at this weekend's gas prices.

Then there is diesel fuel. Per AAA, in San Diego, the average price per gallon jumped from $4.057 last year to $6.161 on March 21. "We truckers have to put 200 gallons of diesel in a semi-truck," Lisa H. said. "It's at the cost of about $1300 to fill up [compared to about $811 last year]."

Lisa, who lives in Valley Center, feels the rising cost of fuel and its effect on the price of food, first-hand.. When she's hauling supplies and goods in her 18-wheeler, she saves money by cooking meals in and by her semi. "I can't afford to spend all my money eating in truck stops," she continued. "I spent $178 at Wal-Mart on groceries for my truck trip for two weeks, for just me, and that wasn't buying anything special. It's not like I am out here cooking gourmet meals nightly in my truck. A lot of us truckers do that now."

Ali, the owner of Guardian Towing Inc. by Miramar Road, runs all his tow trucks on diesel fuel. He said he is spending an additional $3,500-$4,000 a month on diesel, based on the "$6.31 per gallon" he paid on February 21. "We can raise our commercial price a little bit to make up for the difference. But our contract prices, which is most of our business, is locked into a price set by the city and state; those things cannot be changed just because the price of the gas has gone up." Ali's company is contracted by the San Diego Police Department — and California Highway Patrol, which he helped two days ago on the I-15 because a stranded vehicle ran out of gas and the battery died. He said he helped three additional drivers recently who "ran out of gas" while driving around "looking for cheaper gas."

Ali continued, "when gas prices go up, that's not our main issue; it's everything else. I buy oil with 55-gallon drums. I bought it for $300 about 4-5 months ago, and two days ago, I bought it for $600. And tires we usually buy for $230-240; they are $300 right now. Parts and services for the trucks have gone up too. Anything that gets moved by a semi-truck has gone up — that's everything."

Lisa drives her semi truck about 70 hours a week. "The fuel surcharge will go up along with the rise in fuel prices; therefore, the cost of transporting goods will increase, and that directly affects consumers' buying power as our money is worth less with high inflation, as we are seeing now."

Advocates say electric semi trucks will help in times like these, but Lisa, a third-generation trucker, isn't buying into the "electric dream."

"As far as electric trucks go, I can't see that helping a bit," she opined. "They don't have the mileage range that a diesel-powered truck has. How is an industry that works on hours of service rules set by federal regulations for truck drivers — able to handle the combination of ELD (electronic logging devices), HOS (hours of service) rules, and the amount of time it takes to charge the batteries in an electric semi-truck?

Nothing will get delivered on time, which is extremely detrimental for refrigerated/frozen foods, live animals, and produce. If you think people complain about not getting their Amazon in two days now, just wait until the fun starts with that spoiled food, dead animals, and late deliveries. 'Oh, I'm sorry, an ice storm took out the power transmission lines in a wide area, and the electricity is out. Your packages are stuck out on the highway somewhere, and we're not sure when they will be delivered.' As it stands now, we can't even keep the lights on in California during the summer without dealing with rolling blackouts because our power grid can't keep up with demand."

Then, many local Uber drivers on the Facebook and Reddit pages consider the "gasless" Teslas for their driving gigs.

"Great news! Now you can rent a 2021 Tesla from Hertz to drive with Uber," says the Uber website.

The Uber driver I spoke with earlier, Jonathan Islas, isn't sold on the Tesla option. "It's $370 weekly plus $9 a charge daily (200-mile range) if not more, plus tax. It comes up to about $1800 if you do the math. I'm paying $400 a month for my Prius, and it's mine to keep. And I spend about $20 in gas or a little more per day. [The total] is about $900 to $1000 a month, about $900 less than renting a Tesla."

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Courtney and Leon Copeland: "We have tried to work on our route density."
Courtney and Leon Copeland: "We have tried to work on our route density."

Courtney and Leon Copeland of San Diego Scoop Squad, a pet waste removal company, felt the highest spike in gas prices over the weekend.

"We are spending about $60 more per week on gas between our two vehicles," Courtney said to me. "We have not implemented any pricing increases for our customers since we believe gas prices will eventually go back down."

I spoke to Courtney on March 20, shortly after they used $40 worth of gas in their SUV and sedan to clean up 15 yards around the county. According to American Automobile Association (AAA), the average price of super unleaded gas in San Diego last weekend was $6.208. Last year, a few months before the Copelands launched their dog poop removal and yard-deodorizing business, the average price for super unleaded gas was $4.213. "We have tried to work on our route density to ensure we are more efficient with our time and gas usage by routing our customers as close together based on their location."

Ali of Guardian Towing: "Our contract prices, which is most of our business, is locked into a price set by the city and state."

Jonathan Islas is a hybrid-Prius driver whom I met on the Uber Lyft San Diego Drivers Facebook page.

"I spend about $20 in gas per day, and I get like 40 miles per gallon," Islas said to me on March 20. On that Sunday, San Diego's average for regular unleaded gas was $5.911 per gallon, according to AAA, about $1.17 higher than last month's average of $4.74 per gallon.

According to the ride.guru site, full-time Lyft and Uber drivers "easily" drive "more than 1000 miles a week." If Islas drove 4000 miles a month at the current $5.911 per gallon price, he'd spend about $591 in gas a month; if he'd drive 4000 miles at the previous average price of $4.74, per gallon, he'd pay about $474. Islas is losing about $117 a month at this weekend's gas prices.

Then there is diesel fuel. Per AAA, in San Diego, the average price per gallon jumped from $4.057 last year to $6.161 on March 21. "We truckers have to put 200 gallons of diesel in a semi-truck," Lisa H. said. "It's at the cost of about $1300 to fill up [compared to about $811 last year]."

Lisa, who lives in Valley Center, feels the rising cost of fuel and its effect on the price of food, first-hand.. When she's hauling supplies and goods in her 18-wheeler, she saves money by cooking meals in and by her semi. "I can't afford to spend all my money eating in truck stops," she continued. "I spent $178 at Wal-Mart on groceries for my truck trip for two weeks, for just me, and that wasn't buying anything special. It's not like I am out here cooking gourmet meals nightly in my truck. A lot of us truckers do that now."

Ali, the owner of Guardian Towing Inc. by Miramar Road, runs all his tow trucks on diesel fuel. He said he is spending an additional $3,500-$4,000 a month on diesel, based on the "$6.31 per gallon" he paid on February 21. "We can raise our commercial price a little bit to make up for the difference. But our contract prices, which is most of our business, is locked into a price set by the city and state; those things cannot be changed just because the price of the gas has gone up." Ali's company is contracted by the San Diego Police Department — and California Highway Patrol, which he helped two days ago on the I-15 because a stranded vehicle ran out of gas and the battery died. He said he helped three additional drivers recently who "ran out of gas" while driving around "looking for cheaper gas."

Ali continued, "when gas prices go up, that's not our main issue; it's everything else. I buy oil with 55-gallon drums. I bought it for $300 about 4-5 months ago, and two days ago, I bought it for $600. And tires we usually buy for $230-240; they are $300 right now. Parts and services for the trucks have gone up too. Anything that gets moved by a semi-truck has gone up — that's everything."

Lisa drives her semi truck about 70 hours a week. "The fuel surcharge will go up along with the rise in fuel prices; therefore, the cost of transporting goods will increase, and that directly affects consumers' buying power as our money is worth less with high inflation, as we are seeing now."

Advocates say electric semi trucks will help in times like these, but Lisa, a third-generation trucker, isn't buying into the "electric dream."

"As far as electric trucks go, I can't see that helping a bit," she opined. "They don't have the mileage range that a diesel-powered truck has. How is an industry that works on hours of service rules set by federal regulations for truck drivers — able to handle the combination of ELD (electronic logging devices), HOS (hours of service) rules, and the amount of time it takes to charge the batteries in an electric semi-truck?

Nothing will get delivered on time, which is extremely detrimental for refrigerated/frozen foods, live animals, and produce. If you think people complain about not getting their Amazon in two days now, just wait until the fun starts with that spoiled food, dead animals, and late deliveries. 'Oh, I'm sorry, an ice storm took out the power transmission lines in a wide area, and the electricity is out. Your packages are stuck out on the highway somewhere, and we're not sure when they will be delivered.' As it stands now, we can't even keep the lights on in California during the summer without dealing with rolling blackouts because our power grid can't keep up with demand."

Then, many local Uber drivers on the Facebook and Reddit pages consider the "gasless" Teslas for their driving gigs.

"Great news! Now you can rent a 2021 Tesla from Hertz to drive with Uber," says the Uber website.

The Uber driver I spoke with earlier, Jonathan Islas, isn't sold on the Tesla option. "It's $370 weekly plus $9 a charge daily (200-mile range) if not more, plus tax. It comes up to about $1800 if you do the math. I'm paying $400 a month for my Prius, and it's mine to keep. And I spend about $20 in gas or a little more per day. [The total] is about $900 to $1000 a month, about $900 less than renting a Tesla."

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