Security and alarm firms hit hard by gas prices

Companies forced to increase rates, implement new vehicle policies

As the price of fuel continues to increase across the country, security companies, particularly alarm dealers and private security firms, are struggling to compensate for lost revenue at the pump.

The solution for most of these companies has been to adjust their rates or make their customers pay an additional fuel surcharge in an effort to help offset the skyrocketing cost of doing business.

In certain cases, however, taking these types of money-saving measures have either not been effective enough or have forced customers to look elsewhere for their security services.

Greg Valdez, CEO and co-owner of CBI Security, a guard services firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah, said that he’s been forced to raise his rates on alarm companies, who use the company’s guards to respond to reported disturbances in the city.

Though they needed to charge $35 per alarm response to offset their fuel costs, Valdez said he didn’t feel right raising rates that high on his clients and adjusted the price to $25.

"All the client does it pass that off on their client, so we actually took 20 percent less and settled on $25," he said.

Before the recent fast-paced rise in fuel prices, said Valdez, the price of an alarm response would have fluctuated between $15 and $17.

Despite the increase, Valdez said that they have lost very few clients and that many of those who left came back shortly thereafter due to the quality of service they received.

Making vehicles changes to keep business moving

In an effort to keep the alarm patrol division running at CBI, Valdez said the company recently purchased four mopeds and three bicycles for officers to use, which should help reduce their monthly fuel bills. CBI has also purchased two motorcycles for their growing two-wheel division.

Prior to the spike in gas prices, Valdez said his company’s fuel bill averaged around $13,000 a month, but that has recently increased by more than 60 percent to an average of nearly $21,000 per month.

At some larger standing post sites, which are places where CBI guards work a full shift at one particular location, the company has implemented a carpooling van service to take employees to and from work.

"What that does is the employees pay a little, we supply the van, the driver and the gas, and some of the clients chip in as well," Valdez said. "That has really helped a lot; our employees have appreciated it."

There are still instances, however, that require guards to drive a vehicle which can carry the necessary emergency equipment when needed. For those types of situations, CBI security officers are driving Chevrolet Malibu’s, which not only can carry those needed supplies, but also get good fuel mileage.

Several years ago, Valdez said that they tried using hybrid vehicles for patrols, as well as what he calls "glorified electric golf carts" at stationary facilities. The vehicles and carts spent so much time charging, however, that according to Valdez, they were actually cost prohibitive and unreliable.

The CBI CEO also said that they own several "flex fuel" vehicles, which can run on either ethanol or regular unleaded gasoline. The problem is that fuel stations carrying ethanol are few and far between and the cars are now running predominantly on regular unleaded gasoline. Ethanol has consistently cost less than traditional petroleum-based gasoline.

Rising fuel costs has also affected how CBI recruits and retains new employees. While hourly salaries have increased to try and make employment at the company more lucrative, yearly raises have actually been less than what they would have, according to Valdez.

If gas prices continue to rise as they’re projected to, Valdez said that they will have no choice but to park their patrol service.

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