The impact on the wholesale business of this year's high fuel prices was most aptly expressed by a tongue-in-cheek scream from one owner contacted by Tire Business.
``So far this year, with 20-plus trucks, (the gas prices) have added $6,000 per truck in fuel expenses,'' lamented Ross Kogel, president of Tire Wholesalers Co. Inc. in Troy, Mich.
Some wholesalers resorted to adding a transportation surcharge to offset the higher gas prices. Ed Stocker, owner of Silver State Tire in Sparks, Nev., said he was the first in his market to add a nominal surcharge in May.
``The reaction was, `Gee, I didn't think you would have to do this,' '' Mr. Stocker said. ``But after Hurricane Katrina, they now understand or are progressively understanding.''
``We've had to add a transportation surcharge-the first time in our company's history-in the last two months. Some dealers understand, others don't,'' said Brian Morris, president of Wholesale Tire Distributors in Troy, N.C.
The higher gas prices have impeded any efforts to expand his company's delivery schedule, he added. ``We can't afford to increase deliveries because of the fuel costs. The big wholesalers can deliver two times a day. The smaller wholesalers can't-they would have to hire more people and have higher fuel costs.''
Other wholesalers have resisted adding a surcharge.
Terry's Tire Town in Alliance, Ohio, said it has focused on becoming more efficient with its three warehouses in Ohio, Baltimore and Richmond, Va. The company delivers once a day to 90 percent of its customers-which President Will Tolerton said is more than sufficient-and twice daily in key areas.
Tire Wholesalers hasn't instituted a fuel surcharge but rather is ``trying to become more efficient to minimize the price increases to our customers,'' Mr. Kogel said.
The Michigan wholesaler is looking at software to improve its routing in an attempt to reduce the number of trucks it sends out for deliveries. Mr. Kogel said the company makes about 250 stops every day. ``We're trying to get the delivery operation to go from sending 16 trucks out to 12 to 13 trucks out and still make deliveries,'' he said, noting that his company has four warehouses and its Troy center runs deliveries three times a day.
Likewise American Tire Distributors Inc. of Charlotte, N.C., said it has avoided adding a surcharge. ``Our goal is to make our operations more efficient with routes and day-to-day operations,'' said Ron Sinclair, vice president of marketing.