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As drivers face higher prices at the pump, gas station owners say they are hurting too

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Posted at 8:31 AM, Apr 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-08 11:39:43-04

As drivers face higher gas prices, gas station owners say higher oil prices are impacting their bottom line.

On the side of I-80, one of the country's longest highways, in Burns, Wyoming, drivers will find the Antelope Truck Stop.

It's a place where drivers can fill up with gas and grab snacks, which is what someone might expect from a gas station. The surprise comes when people realize it's also a place to try authentic Indian food in the heart of cowboy country.

Gurnam Singh says his livelihood relies on the drivers passing by— on their way to somewhere else.

"We (are) on the highway," he said. "Pretty much all my business is gas and diesel."

Despite major brand names on gas stations, many are owned by a person or a family, sometimes by people who moved to the United States in search of an opportunity.

“We come, we immigrants, we work," Singh said. "I tell everyone we can make every dream come true."

He moved from India to New York City when he was a teenager. Fifteen years ago, bought a truck stop and moved his family west. 

Although the number of dollars per gallon going into gas pumps this year has been higher, Singh says making money can become harder when gas prices rise. 

"It’s not like a truck stop or gas station makes a lot of money," Singh says. 

Singh buys fuel at a wholesale price, then must decide how many cents he will charge on top of that to drivers.

More than half of the price of gas is determined by the cost of crude oil, which is why the cost per barrel is mentioned so often.

Even though the price Singh pays goes up, he says there is only so much he can charge per gallon because drivers will go find a lower price.

“I think inflation has affected us just like it has everybody else," said Grier Bailey, executive director of the Colorado Wyoming Petroleum Marketers Association.

The group lobbies for gas stations and convenience stores.

Bailey said gas station owners usually only break even on fuel and rely on what else they sell to make a profit.

"Your inside stuff is, essentially, how you make money," Bailey said. "You draw them in, then whether it’s a lottery, or whether it’s energy drinks or nicotine to whatever degree people use that.”

Singh is trying to take the higher gas prices in stride.

"It just like we’re living life, we get sick, we get cold, we don’t want to work, we want to work. It’s the same thing— prices go up and down," Singh said.

The fact he was able to build a successful business more than 11,000 miles away from where he grew up in India gives him hope that today's struggles are only temporary.

“Just we have to have the motivation to keep going, wake up do work, do whatever you want to do," he said. "America has so many opportunities."