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NW Businesses Look For Ways To Save On Fuel

We might be at a “tipping point.” Gas has gotten so expensive that companies are changing how they do business – to save on fuel.

From realtors to truckers, here in the Northwest the push is on to reduce miles driven and eke out better gas mileage. Correspondent Austin Jenkins reports.

Belmes: “I got to go man, I got a load”

When truck driver Carlos Belmes hits the road these days – his truck has a maximum speed of 63 miles per hour.

That’s because the company that owns his rig – Gordon Trucking – has a speed governor on the engine. It’s part of a company-wide effort to reduce fuel costs.

Belmes who drives locally says he doesn’t mind having his speed restricted. But laughs thinking about the guys who drive cross country.

Carlos Belmes: “When you’re going to the East coast or somewhere in the Midwest where the speed limit is 75 (laughs) I guess you might feel like you are like a turtle over there when you drive there.”

Gordon Trucking recently reduced the maximum speed allowed from 65 to 63. With just that two mile an hour difference the company expects to save $3 million a year in fuel costs across its 1400 truck fleet.

Gordon is also increasing tire pressure on its trucks to reduce rolling resistance. And drivers are being instructed to shut off their engines, not idle, when they park. Belmes says he’s willing to do his part.

Carlos Belmes: “If you can help the company minimize their expenses, sometimes the company give that back to the drivers.”

Efficiency is also the name of the game at Comcast Cable.

Deann English: “Hey Dan this is Deann in dispatch how you doing dear?”

At Comcast’s dispatch center in Puyallup, Washington, Deann English uses a GPS mapping system to assign calls to technicians based on who’s closest.

Deann English: “I have a 12 to 2 out in Bonney Lake that’s mapping super close to where you are – an equipment pick up – think you’d have time to squeeze that in?”

Comcast says its Dynamic Dispatch system is just one way the company is working to reduce the miles driven by its technicians. The technology has helped the company cut its fuel consumption by ten percent since last year.

Spokesman Steve Kipp says gas prices are definitely a hot topic in the executive board room.

Steve Kipp: “I think what it will do and what it already has been doing is forcing us to look at ways to become more efficient, to drive fewer miles, to look at vehicles that are more efficient just to find some ways in which we can start saving costs because these are big dollars and they are very real dollars to us now.”

Ultimately, Kipp says the best way for Comcast to cut fuel costs is to continue to improve its network reliability. Fewer repairs mean fewer miles driven. Gas prices are also altering the habits of independent business people in the Northwest.

Seattle real estate agent Stacey Brower recently traded out her Lexus sedan for a Lexus SUV Hybrid.

Stacey Brower: “It’s not a hybrid that gets 45, but for an SUV that fits four adults comfortably that’s a luxury car it’s significantly more than the 17 or 18 that most would get.”

Brower says being more environmentally friendly was the main motivation for switching to a hybrid. But gas prices were also a factor since she logs thousands of miles a month for work and pays her own fuel bill.

And Brower is not alone. Other real estate agents she knows are trading in their gas guzzlers for more sensible rides.

Stacey Bower: “When I first got in the business we saw a lot of the Expeditions and the Escalades and the enormous cars, especially from a lot of the male real estate agents. And not only, I think, are we getting away from it from gas prices, but it’s really difficult for your female clients that are in a skirt to crawl into your Escalade. It’s just not practical.”

Happier clients, cheaper gas bills. Bottom line, Northwest businesses say it just makes good business sense to cut fuel costs where they can. Because everyone expects high gas prices are here to stay.

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