OATS Keeps Going
The OATS driving program is a non-profit organization that gives free rides to the elderly and those in rural areas where public transportation is not available. They are under the pressure of rising costs with a stagnant budget.Dorthy Yeager, the OATS director, doesn't want to raise rates, but is afraid that might be a reality the company faces as gas prices climb and oats officials prepare the budget.
"For every cent, 1 cent that gasoline rises, it costs OATS $12,000," Yeager said. "So you can imagine when we see a 5 cent, 10 cent jump, it really affects us."
OATS vehicles traveled more than 12 million miles last year across Missouri. Their second highest expense of running the program is gas, and at $3.19 a gallon it costs over a $100 to fill up their trucks.
According to the OATS Fiscal Year 2006 Annual Report, its budget of $18,214,293 is split up into seven categories. Gasoline accounts for 13% of the entire budget, the second highest expenditure:
Where Funding Money Goes:
Driver/Dispatcher Wages/Benefits: $10,302,158 -- 57%
Gasoline: $2,444,861 -- 13%
Direct Administration Expense: $1,520,558 -- 9%
Repairs and Maintenance: $1,509,382 -- 8%
Vehicle Insurance: $1,258,753 -- 7%
Indirect Administration Expense: $759,351 -- 4%
Driver's Expenses and Operating Supplies: $419,231 -- 2%.
Even though OATS has three ethanol vehicles, alternate fuel sources don't seem to solve any problems.
"If it's an ethanol vehicle and they want to put ethanol in it that's fine if its cheaper," mechanic Nick Reid said, "but in the long run if it loses horse power by putting ethanol in it and gets worse fuel mileage, then you might as well put regular unleaded in it."
With the vehicles averaging 12 miles per gallon, a plan to fine tune the gas price problem is still in the works.
"The gas prices are really kind of bad as far as our budget goes," said regional dispatcher Robert Johnson, "but we're going to try and keep moving people as long as we can."
After 36 years of service, OATS doesn't intend to let down its riders.
OATS is not the only non-profit transportation service program in the state. Missouri Elderly and Handicapped Transportation Assistance Program funds approximately 200 non-profit transportation providers statewide. There is also the Southeast Missouri Transportation Service which covers areas that OATS doesn't reach.