Gas prices creating trouble on Valley freeways

FRESNO, Calif.

The average price is about 50 cents more in Fresno Monday -- $4.35.

Budget Towing trucks are on patrol.

Every morning and afternoon, three trucks head out on a mission to keep Fresno-area freeways clear of traffic blockages.

But wrecks and breakdowns are no longer their biggest concern.

Now, it's empty gas tanks.

"These are all empty," said Don Bartlett, of Budget Towing. "This one's still full. This was the morning shift." Bartlett emptied his red, plastic gas cans into four different vehicles Monday.

Because of rising gas prices, he says drivers are pushing the limits of their fuel gauges and keeping his freeway service patrol busy.

"One day we had, I think it was last Friday, we had all three trucks used 24 gallons of fuel at a gallon apiece," Bartlett said.

A gallon of gas gets vehicles moving again, but the high number of people running out of gas is a problem other tow truck drivers, like John DeCicco, are starting to notice.

"As this gas crisis continues, the more people break down, the more accidents we're actually going to see because of people running out of gas," DeCicco said.

"A lot of people pushing cars, running out of gas," said Will Albashah.

He's seeing the problem from the other side.

His Valero gas station is keeping this shelf fully stocked for customers who didn't make it all the way to the pumps. Even those who do make it aren't always filling up.

"You caught me on the cheapest, the cheapest day," Bobby Nichols told Action News. "I only put $6.55 in, but I usually fill up on paydays."

Motor clubs like AAA and Cross Country will often rescue their out-of-gas customers with gas deliveries.

Budget Towing runs those trips for AAA, but as the gas prices climb, even AAA is getting stingy.

"We used to give people five gallons, then it went to three gallons, then it went to two-and-a-half gallons. Now it's at a gallon, gallon and a half -- just enough to get them to a service station," said Bartlett.

But once they're at the service station, drivers will come face-to-face with the reason they were stranded in the first place -- those rising numbers they were trying to avoid.

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