Mount Crawford farmer and truck salesman Brad Ewing knows a thing or two about the importance of heavy machinery in making the world go round.
Farmers like Ewing and others who depend on fuel for their livelihoods are in dire straits due to its high cost which could rise further due to trade sanctions stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the shortage of other fuel sources.
“I filled our tractor for $1.50 [a gallon] Last spring. Now it just jumped to over $5 for on-road diesel,” he said.
He works at JW Auto Sales in Harrisonburg and said he’s seen a change in his shopping habits over the past few weeks.
“The last week and a half has been busier than the last two months,” he said.
Several people told the Daily News-Record that they were looking to sell larger trucks for smaller trucks or work vans because of the price of gasoline.
“We trade a lot of big trucks for small trucks,” he said. “For us, it’s people trying to either sell it or trade it from a [Chevrolet] 2500 up to one [Toyota] Tacoma.
But the crux of the matter is that most people who use trucks and other big machines that burn more gas than compact cars simply can’t do the same job with a smaller vehicle.
“They don’t have the option of getting rid of it for a more fuel-efficient vehicle,” he said.
So, even if the price of fuel increases, it does not change the fact that many machines such as large pickup trucks are still in demand to tow livestock at auction and perform other tasks.
“Most truck buyers are not [dissuaded by high] fuel prices because they have work to do that requires a truck — farmers and construction workers,” Ewing said.
Kenny Snyder, a Kenny’s Auto Mart car salesman with more than 50 years in the industry, remembers when the gas situation was worse than it is now.
In 1973, the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries imposed an oil embargo on the United States due to the nation’s support of Israel during the Yom Kippur War.
“In the ’70s, they had ‘even days and odd days,'” he said.
The days alternated between even and odd, where only cars with license plates ending in an odd number or an even number could buy fuel.
The market effects of rising gasoline prices have driven consumers to buy more fuel-efficient and smaller cars. Companies increased production of these models to meet growing demand as consumers sought to reduce their pain at the pump.
Snyder also recalls the fallout from the 2007-2008 financial crisis and the impact it had on the auto market after fuel prices soared to then-record highs.
“It’s like right now,” he said. “People are scratching their heads and finding out how they can work from home or carpool, especially if you’re driving a certain mileage.”
Gas prices averaged $4.25 a gallon across the country on Wednesday, up 60 cents from last week’s average price and surpassing a high not seen since July 2008, according to AAA. This time last year, a gallon of gasoline cost an average of $1.45 less.
“The gas got too high and people just got rid of their trucks and whatever was trying to get small cars,” Snyder said.
However, as the economy recovered, interest in larger vehicles such as trucks returned, according to Snyder.
“Then a lot of people wanted their trucks back,” he said.
Other Valley car sellers said similar economic cycles lead to an increase in consumers trying to trade in larger vehicles for smaller ones.
But this time, new constraints play in the dynamics.
“The used car market is strong because the new car market is weak due to production issues,” said Kevin Knott, sales manager at Bob Wade Autoworld in Harrisonburg.
Falling new car production has shifted consumer demand to the used-car market, but there are fewer used cars available, car sellers said.
“With the inventory as it is right now, people are getting vehicles, but they might not be getting exactly what they’re looking for, but sometimes it’s a necessity,” Knott said.
In Elkton, a few people recently asked if they could resell trucks to Myers Ford, according to sales manager Lisa Good.
“It’s difficult because there’s not the number of cars to swap out,” she said.
“Replacement vehicles are hard to come by,” she said.
And that problem of finding a quick fix for some people’s fuel problems might cause some people to hang on and find other ways to cut down on trips to the gas station.
“If it’s a short-lived problem, people can stick with it,” Good said.
Prices for trucks, like small sedans and hatchbacks, continue to rise even as fuel prices rise, according to Ewing.
“We’re paying more wholesale than we were selling trucks at retail a year and a half ago,” Ewing said.
He said it’s just another part of the price increases that are hitting the Valley’s economy and community in many ways.
“Fuel isn’t the only factor, but everything is bad everywhere,” Ewing said.