Gas-reliant business hit hard by soaring fuel prices


The pain at the pump continues, with drivers in Metro Vancouver filling up for as much as 214.9 cents per liter on Thursday.

While some switch to riding their bikes or using public transit to get around, others rely on gas. Max Harwood, a landscaper with Augusta Lawn Care in Burnaby, says he has no choice but to pay the sky-high gas prices. In an average day, he drives to a dozen homes throughout the region in his work van from him.

“(The high price of gas) is just an encouragement to have a tight-knit route rather than driving all over the place,” he said.

While there’s an increasing number of electric cars on the market, Harwood says there aren’t many options for electric vehicles large enough to carry his landscaping equipment, so he’s stuck using gas. Many of his tools, including his lawnmower and his weed trimmer, are also gas powered.

“The infrastructure for electric isn’t quite there with the hand tools, but for homeowners it’s a great option,” he said.

Harwood says he could spend 1.5 times the amount of money on gas compared to last year if the price of a liter hovers around $2. While the added expense is hurting his bottom line, Harwood is choosing not to pass the cost down to customers.

“We’d be losing about two per cent in profit,” I explained. “A well-run landscaping business can expect a 20 per cent profit, so that is something to consider.”

A mid-week dip in crude oil prices has some forecasting a drop in Lower Mainland gas prices in time for the weekend. Roger McKnight, chief petroleum analyst with En-Pro International, says the price of a liter could dip below the $2 mark.

Vijay Muralidharan, a fuel specialist with Kalibrate Canada, agrees there could be some relief, but believes it will be short-lived based on the activity he’s tracking south of the border.

“There’s been news in the US that demand has breached an all-time high for March,” he said. “That does not bode well. If demand is strong, refinery margins are high, and higher refinery margins means higher gasoline prices.”

Another factor in gas prices is tax. Alberta has put a moratorium on the provincial fuel tax to curb the rising price at the pumps, but the BC government does not have plans to follow suit. Premier John Horgan has placed blame for skyrocketing gas prices on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Harwood admits it would be nice to see gas prices come down. Until then, he’s doing his best not to dwell on the added expense.

“I just need to focus on what I can actually change and what will move the needle of the business,” he said.


Leave a Comment