The high gas prices experienced in summer 2018 left lasting memories for many landscape contractors caught off-guard by the sudden rise in fuel costs at the height of the cutting season. And even though prices at the pump are currently low, analysts are predicting that prices will rise again by mid-spring. GasBuddy’s “2019 Gasoline Forecast” estimates that the highest costs of the year will occur in May and continue through August.
Fortunately, there are a few steps contractors can take to ensure they aren’t surprised by an increase in fuel costs.
1. Conduct a fuel audit.
Prior to the cutting season, contractors should review 2018 fuel budgets and actual expenses. This can help pinpoint equipment burning through too much fuel or signal a need to change refueling practices.
2. Budget for gas price increases.
Contractors can set aside money at the start of the season to use as gas prices rise. Another option some contractors have found success with is writing slight cost increases into customer contracts that go into effect if fuel costs reach a certain price.
3. Review efficient refueling tips with your crew.
As operators prepare to go back in the field after winter, reviewing refueling techniques can help prevent fuel loss — and lost dollars — from spills. For example, using a funnel can ensure fuel goes directly into tanks.
4. Consider switching to propane mowers.
With propane, contractors can have an identical cutting experience to what they are used to with gasoline engines, but without the concerns of fuel price fluctuation during the cutting season. Historically, the cost per gallon of propane has been lower than both gasoline and diesel. Even when gas prices are low, contractors using propane mowers average savings of 30 to 50 percent on fuel costs alone and can see greater savings during periods of high gas prices.
Contractors can also establish a fuel contract with a propane supplier, which locks in a set price per gallon. So, no matter the price at the pump, contractors know exactly what they’ll be paying for propane well into the future, which can make budgeting for fuel costs much easier.
For more information on how switching to propane can reduce fuel costs, visit propane.com/propane-uses/landscape-and-turf-management .