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As gas prices soar, Californians test life above the $4-a-gallon mark

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Michael Kopilevich, owner of OnTime Limousine in Los Angeles, says high-priced gas is now burning through about 20 percent of his company’s revenue, compared with 7 to 10 percent in 2008.

“In general, everything in my life is changed in a bad way because gas prices are tied to everything … it’s just a big chain reaction,” says Mr. Kopilevich, whose firm has 12 limousines and 7 full-time drivers. To make ends meet, he says, he is deferring maintenance, vacations, and new-car purchases.

The owner of family-run Affordable Limousine Service – who requested his name not be used – says he is making ends meet by moonlighting with other companies that require chauffeur’s licenses, even making food deliveries.

“To stay in business, we have to keep cutting our prices to the bone,” he says. He wonders aloud whether competing firms are forgoing insurance payments.

“We only have three cars and we’re family owned so we can’t lay anyone off. We’re barely making enough money to pay our bills.”

From messenger services to pizza deliverers, anyone who burns fuel to get to their market is being hit hard by the high prices and trying to pass them on to their customers.

“We’re trying to get our customers to pay a surcharge, and they are screaming that they can’t pay it and will go elsewhere,” says Rick Lutrel of the family truck firm. “We are looking for ways to band together.”

The Automobile Club of Southern California meanwhile says that the price of regular fuel is 19.4 cents higher than a week ago and 51.4 cents higher than a year ago. Prices have increased 14 straight days and 26 out of the last 27, they say.

Spokeswoman Marie Montgomery told the L.A. Daily News she is optimistic that the spikes could signal an early peak in seasonal prices that might lead to a sooner decline.

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