AUGUSTA – The record-high gas prices are taking a toll on Maine companies that rely heavily on vehicles for their business.

The average price of regular unleaded gas hit $1.73 a gallon statewide Thursday, 20 cents a gallon higher than a month ago and more than 30 cents higher than last year at this time, according to AAA, which tracks gas prices.

Aurilla Holt, owner of Berry & Berry Floral, said if prices continue to rise, she may have to increase her delivery charge for flower orders.

Holt said her average delivery charge is $3 to $4 per order, and with gas prices rising every day, it’s becoming difficult to cover fuel and drivers’ wages. If gas prices stay up, Holt said she will consider hiking her delivery charge.

Berry & Berry’s three drivers, located in Hallowell, Windsor and Gardiner, deliver 30 to 40 orders per day to faraway locations. “We deliver to such rural areas that one delivery can run a half-hour one way,” Holt said. “There’s a lot of ground there, especially from the Windsor location.”

Myles Cloutier, owner of Al’s & Double R’s Taxi in Augusta, said the high fuel costs are also a burden on his drivers.

“It’s like that every Labor Day,” Cloutier said. “This is probably the highest I’ve seen it. The drivers make a little less, but not considerably.”

Cloutier expects his 20 to 25 drivers to see some relief during the middle of September. He doesn’t yet see the need to seek permission from the Augusta City Council to raise his fares.

“I know it’s going to get better. I just tell the drivers hang on and it’ll go back the other way,” Cloutier said.

Rene Letourneau, AAA spokeswoman for Northern New England, said gas prices typically go down in the first few weeks of September as children head back to school and demand lessens.

But at least for this weekend, the lofty fuel costs are not expected to keep drivers off the road on one of the busiest road trip weekends of the year.

Letourneau said AAA predicts 28 million motorists will travel at least 50 miles from home for their final summertime getaways over the Labor Day holiday weekend. That’s up 2 percent from last year.


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