by WES FERGUSON
Pity the lowly pizza guy.
Of all the drivers being pinched by high gas prices – especially those commuters inching down Interstate 35 to and from Austin – the delivery guys have it about as bad as anybody.
Rising fuel prices
The average price of a gallon of fuel in the Austin-San Marcos area, according to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report.
For regular unleaded gasoline, the highest recorded average price in Austin-San Marcos was $3.98 on July 17, 2008. For diesel, the highest price was $4.74 on July 18, 2008.
They don’t earn that much to begin with. Now they’re expected to fill up their tanks when regular unleaded is going for $3.42 a gallon? Just so the rest of us can gorge ourselves in the comfort of our own homes?
“Yeah, it sucks,” deadpanned Mason Lally, a driver for Pizza Classics in Kyle. “Especially when you drive a V8.”
Lally’s V8 is a an old, grey Grand Marquis. One afternoon last week, he was boxing up a pie for his next delivery. Then he slipped it into an insulated bag, set the bag in the back seat of the Marquis, and rumbled down the street.
Sitting at a table inside the restaurant, Lally’s boss, Gary Rock, said he charges a flat $3 fee for deliveries, no matter what the price of fuel. Those three bucks don’t go far when a gallon of gas is selling for $3.42, as it was on Tuesday in the Austin-San Marcos area, according to the AAA daily fuel price survey.
“I’m hesitant to make any changes,” said Rock, who has owned Pizza Classics for about four years. “You never know. It goes up and down, but at the moment, the drivers are taking the brunt of the damage.”
Rock guesstimates that his drivers travel 50 or so miles on a typical Friday night. That’s nothing compared to the buses in the Hays Consolidated Independent School District.
The buses in the district’s fleet journey nearly 2 million miles a year, according to Deputy Superintendent Carter Scherff, the district’s chief financial officer.
“We definitely feel the pain,” he said. “We spend the money. But it’s not like we don’t have the money budgeted for it.
“We have built into our fuel budget increases in price so that if the price stays low, well, then we just saved that money,” he said. “And if prices go up, we think we’ll be just fine with what we’ve got budgeted.”
The district has no plans to consolidate routes or make other cuts in response to the fuel prices, Scherff added.
“We don’t provide any unnecessary service,” he said, “so it’s not like we can curtail service.”
As for consumers and commuters, most San Marcos residents get in the car to go to work, with 77.2 percent commuting alone and 8.7 percent carpooling, according the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Nearly 6 percent walked and another 2.9 percent took public transportation.
People might be complaining about the price at the pump, but transportation experts don’t expect consumers to drive less or buy more fuel-efficient vehicles until the price per gallon crosses the $4 threshold.
One driver making a change, though, is Lally, the Pizza Classics delivery guy. He’s leaving the pizza business altogether. From now on, he’ll be driving his V8 to a desk job as a data processor in Austin.
“We’re happy that he’s got something,” Rock said. “His last day’s Wednesday.”