Editor's Page: Gasoline prices may affect contractor profits this summer
August 1, 2006
In many parts of the country, August is among the hottest months of the summer.
For those in the HVAC and sheet metal trade, that should translate to one of the busiest as well. When the temperature outside is hitting 90ºF with humidity to match, most homeowners and businesses don't want to be without air conditioning for long.
This should be good times for contractors; however, a recent run-up in already-high gasoline prices may dampen the mood - and profits.
In much of the country, gasoline hit $3 a gallon last month. In our July 2005 issue, we covered the effect gas prices were having on contractors ("Gas pains: High prices make contractors search for ways to save"). Looking back, the prices we quoted - the average, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, was around $2.12 - now seem a big bargain.
Even then, contractors were starting to cut back on the use of their biggest, most fuel-hungry trucks. The owner of an Illinois firm was even saying some of his employees who preferred to take pickups like Ford F-150s to jobsites could be forced to drive smaller and presumably, less cool midsize cars like a Taurus.
Some contractors were experimenting with fuel surcharges, while others just increased their basic fees. A few said they were trying to absorb the extra costs. I wonder now how many are still using that strategy.
When surveyed, many Americans express outrage at gas prices, but few change their driving habits, at least for very long. Some pundits are now saying gas could hit $4 a gallon. Prices at that level, especially if they're sustained, will force many businesses and homeowners to make major changes.
I wonder how you're handling fuel prices. Please let me know. Write me at Snips magazine, BNP Media, 2401 W. Big Beaver Road, Suite 700, Troy, MI 48084. You can also send an e-mail to email@example.com. Please include your company name, location, your position and what gasoline is going for in your area. We might use the information for a story or include responses on this page.
LettersApprentice programs are varied
I was very pleased to see you addressing the need for apprentice training in your June editorial ("States must do more to attract workers to construction careers").
Here in Alaska, we have union apprenticeship programs for those choosing to enter the sheet metal or piping trades. I felt you might have included mention of the vast opportunities in service work as well as construction.
A recent success story is my son, now 21, who attended the Perry Institute in Yakima, Wash. This school has an excellent "hands-on" emphasis as well as textbook theory. He has now graduated the two-year program and is employed in Seattle as a service technician. Another important point to mention is the existence of many state and federal loans and grants.
Michael D. Travers
Control Contractors Inc.