Saturday, March 31, 2007

APPLETON, Wis. - Westhill Rehab may not be a Fortune 500 company, but when owner and vice president Ted Malkowski read an article in a business magazine last year about how companies can trim their monthly gas bills, he was all eyes.
At the time, gas prices were dangerously close to $3 per gallon. The large company featured in the article trimmed $300,000 from its monthly gas bill by taking all of its vehicles off the road one day per week. Malkowski did the same thing, taking his 10 vehicles off the road every Wednesday.
The result: "Our monthly gas bill went down 15%," he said.
Malkowski said the change hasn't been much of an adjustment. Although Westhill still delivers for emergencies and hospital discharges, it schedules all other deliveries on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
For the most part, Westhill's customers haven't complained, Malkowski said.
"As long as people know ahead of time, it's not much of a problem," he said. "If they need something badly enough, they'll come in and get it."
Just because its vehicles are off the road on Wednesdays doesn't mean the company's delivery technicians are taking the day off or twiddling their thumbs, Malkowski said.
"They clean their vehicles," he said. "If there's any service work that needs to be done, like an oil change, that's the day it gets done."
While he hasn't heard any other stories like Westhill's, Jerry Keiderling, vice president of The VGM Group's U.S. Rehab, said rehab providers are looking for ways to cut back on deliveries due to recent reimbursement cuts.
"The service mode of rehab means you're constantly on the road, whether it's to make a delivery or to repair someone's chair," he said. "Things have to change for providers to maintain some sort of profitability."
Even though gas prices have tempered since Malkowski read the article, he expects Westhill's vehicles to remain in park every Wednesday this year.
"We've gotten used to it over here," he said. "So have our customers."