Gas prices bite America’s car-dependent workers
DETROIT (AP) — High gas prices have Wallace Reid looking for a new career.
Reid, who drives for Uber and Lyft in New York, fills up his Lexus at least three times a week. He pays about $95 each time, about double what he paid last year. To compensate for this, he drives more often, but he also applies for other jobs that would not require his car.
“It’s more hours, more stress,” he said. “New York is not an easy city to work in and that affects our lives.”
Reid is not alone. Millions of Americans who rely on their car for work are changing their habits, signing up for carpooling or even ditching their cars for bikes, as gas prices recently hit $5 a gallon for the very first time. This week, it’s averaging $4.95 a gallon nationally, down from $3.06 a gallon a year ago, according to AAA.
Help could be on the way. On Wednesday, President Joe Biden asked Congress to suspend federal gasoline taxes for three months, which would reduce gasoline prices by 18.4 cents per gallon. He also called on states to suspend their own gasoline taxes.
But in the meantime, gas is putting a strain on budgets.
Jace Shoemaker-Galloway wondered whether to charge more for Paws and Whiskers Sitters, his pet sitting business in Macomb, Illinois. She visits up to 10 homes every day and fills up her 2018 Mazda CX-3 almost weekly. A recent fill cost him almost $50.
This month, she finally acted. She contacted her customers and told them that she was removing the 10% discount she had always given to regular customers.
Shoemaker-Galloway, who is also an author of children’s books, said her customers were understanding. But she fears that higher gasoline prices could hurt her business in other ways.
“Cost doesn’t just impact my bottom line,” she said. “Because the price of everything is so expensive, people are cutting back on non-essentials, which means pet sitting and selling books.”
In a normal summer, Orvilia Nieto might travel in the RV she lives in in Lytle, Texas. But that might not happen this year. She struggles to fill the tank of her 2008 Ford Expedition SUV so she can get to work at a TJ Maxx distribution center in San Antonio, about 20 miles away.
Nieto and his colleagues swap tips on where gas is the cheapest. She sometimes carpools or only fills up half full, which still costs her more than $50. But she feels lucky. A handful of colleagues from his shift, which ends at 2:30 a.m., cycle home in the dark.
“It’s been a tough road,” she said. “If we lived in town it would be easier, we could take the bus, but at the end of the shift at 2:30 am, which bus line is available?
Jill Chapman, senior performance consultant at Insperity, a Texas-based human resources and recruiting firm, said gas prices and commute times are increasingly a sticking point with job applicants. ‘use. Chapman said companies could consider temporary bonuses, public transit incentives or gas cards to help their employees.
“A business owner needs to recognize that there is stress associated with rising gas prices,” Chapman said.
David Lewis, CEO of Operations Inc., a human resources consulting firm based in Norwalk, Connecticut, recalls handing out gas cards to his employees in 2009 when the price of gas was over $4 a day. gallon. But this time it won’t because employees have another option: working from home.
“This is an unwanted development for companies trying to bring people back to the office,” Lewis said. “That’s one more reason why these employees are pushing back.”
Lewis has approximately 100 employees at Norwalk. Before COVID, 85% of them were in the office at least two days a week. Now maybe 25% of them are. Lewis – and many of his clients – would like to see more employees in the office, but say gas prices are a huge impediment.
“If you’re the company that demands everyone come in all the time, you’re an outcast,” he said.
Psychology professor Brian Cesario lived within walking distance of the college where he teaches. But last year he moved 55 miles to Hopewell Junction, New York, so he could afford a bigger home for his growing family.
Cesario taught remotely even before the pandemic and assumed he would continue to do so. But last fall, her university began requiring her to travel to campus twice a week, a trip that now costs her $240 in gas each month. Cesario said he doesn’t earn enough to make up for that, so he’s looking for fully remote work outside of academia.
For those who must travel, there may be options. On Tuesday, Uber said it would bring back discounted shared rides in nine U.S. cities this summer, including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Organizations that connect ridesharers — like the one run by the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments in the Detroit area — say they’re seeing significantly more participants.
Some even find solutions in their own garage. Pame Viens and her husband – both histotechnologists who prepare tissue at medical facilities – have changed vehicles because her commute is longer. Now he drives his 2016 Volkswagen Passat and she drives her 2022 Dodge Ram.
“I’m only 5’1.” I hit my forehead against the side mirror,” she laughed. “But I’m getting used to it.”
But others say they just need to hustle harder. Brian Scheall, an Uber driver in Tampa, Florida, pays $75 every time he fills up his Volkswagen Atlas.
“You can make money, but you have to work, work, work,” Scheall said. He recently took a side job driving clients from Florida to Virginia for a little extra cash.
Uber says it understands drivers are feeling the pinch of high gas prices, and it added an extra 45 to 55 cents on all rides in March to help soften the blow. But both Reid and Scheall say gig businesses should be doing a lot more.
“It makes no difference. It’s like a grain of sand,” Reid said of the surcharge.