The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Business

February 23, 2014

Fuel prices affect many

JOHNSTOWN — Everyone wants to see lower gasoline and diesel fuel, said area businesses that rely heavily on fuel.

Tom Martin, chairman of Martin Oil Co., headquartered in Blair County but which has a presence in the Johnstown region, said that the price of fuel has not affected his company negatively.

Martin, which distributes the fuels and also sells it at its general stores, said that his sales are up a little.

“We would like to see lower prices, but the price doesn’t seem to have hampered anyone’s activities and trucks are still rolling,” he said.

Stan McQuaide, president of W.C. McQuaide Inc., a freight line in Richland Township, said the prices of gasoline and diesel fuel have a direct affect on the economy.

“When you have to spend more to fill your tank, you have less to spend on everything else and the economy suffers,” he said. “I have not heard one ‘expert economist’ mention this as being the root cause of the worldwide recession the last six years.”

McQuaide is taking steps to reduce his consumption of gasoline and diesel fuel by converting his trucks to operate on compressed natural gas.

A truck with a natural gas engine costs about $40,000 more than a truck with a diesel engine, but a state grant will fund up to $20,000 of that cost. McQuaide’s will pay the remainder, he said.

Natural gas burns cleaner, so it is more environmentally friendly, he said. The engines require less pollution equipment and are lower in cost to operate. Natural gas is more stable in pricing and is produced locally, so it will not be affected by foreign influences, he said.

Timothy McIlwain, vice president of McIlwain Charter and Tours in Upper Yoder Township, said the increased price of fuel has an impact on all forms of transportation.

“In the charter and tour industry, the ticket price or group price is increased to compensate for the rising fuel prices,” he said. “We have noticed that the higher the price of diesel, the less people travel and the public, when they do travel, tend to pick closer destinations.”

Group travel to destinations such as Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., is still cost effective and popular in this market, he said.

Matt Mlaker, vice president of Mlaker Charter and Tours, Davidsville, said with the recent increase in taxes on fuel at the wholesale level, his company has been paying 31 cents more per gallon for diesel and 13 cents more per gallon on gasoline.

“To fill up one of our charter buses costs almost $800,” he said. “Most buses get filled three or four times a week.”

Martin, McQuaide and McIlwain all said that although no ones wants to see the price of fuel increase, as it did under the new transportation bill, the increase is necessary to fund improvements to highways and bridges.

Frank Sojak is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/FrankNews10.

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