Roy Chapman drives 150 miles a day delivering 462 copies of the Glasgow Daily Times. He’s done it for 16 years, supplementing his farm income.

“When I started, gas was 83 cents a gallon,” said the good-natured, affable Chapman, smiling and shaking his head. “Today, it was $3.89. It makes it rough.”

The management of the newspaper is trying to help, Chapman said. Daily Times publisher Pete Mio said he uses a formula based on the miles of each route to provide a gas allowance and has lately added up to another $75 a month depending on how long a carrier’s route is.

But newspaper carriers aren’t employees of the paper — they work on a “buy-sell contract.” They buy the papers, then they work as independent contractors, selling the papers to customers. Daily Times circulation director Leslie McAlpin works with 35 motor carriers. The paper has only five of the traditional walking routes in the city.

She said motor carriers earn on average about $700 a month, although some who have doubled or lengthened routes when other carriers gave them up may earn as much as a $1,000. But the carriers are responsible for their own transportation, insurance and fuel costs.

As gas prices rise, their profit goes down. And the nature of the job, stopping at more than 400 paper boxes, makes for the most inefficient driving habits and fuel use. It’s nearly all stop-and-go, stop-and-go, and the car is loaded down with the additional weight of all those newspapers.

“I have to fill up every day, and it costs me right now about $40 a day, and I’ve got a 4-cylinder (car),” Chapman said. “All I’m doing now is making ends meet. All I’m doing is paying the bills and paying for the gas. There’s nothing left over. It’s just enough to survive.”

Chapman and his wife who helps him on his route don’t do much for entertainment these days, he said.

“You get home, you don’t go anywhere because you can’t afford it,” he said. “You can’t buy name brand items, you buy commodity items. You can’t eat out anymore.”

Chapman also farms 52 acres, mostly tobacco. He said his fertilizer and fuel costs have tripled. He’s seen cigarette prices rise, “but the man who grows it isn’t getting any of that.”

Chapman knows the company which runs the paper is trying to help. Tips from customers help. But he doesn’t see gas prices coming down. He thinks they’ll go up some more, and he doesn’t see how he or the paper can continue with things the way they are now.

“The paper office now is giving us a little help on the gasoline, but I don’t see how they can keep doing that,” Chapman said. He understands his subscribers are feeling higher costs of fuel, utilities and food, and raising the price of the paper might cost customers.

“But the way things are going, somewhere down the line, it’s going to hit the customers,” he said. “I like this job. The job’s good, but something’s going to have to give with the price of gas.”

RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. He can be reached by e-mail at rellis@cnhi.com.

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