Published: Dec 10, 2010 5:42 AM EST
Updated: Dec 09, 2010 11:37 PM EST

PUNTA GORDA, Fla. - Gas prices locally continue to creep towards the $3 mark. While it's a pain for anyone behind the wheel, it's hitting one group extra-hard: those who depend on driving from place to place for their jobs.

Dave Martin of Punta Gorda is a self-employed business owner. But when it comes to getting around, he feels like he has 2 jobs.

"I work for the gas company," Dave Martin said, "because when I get money in, the first thing I have to do? Put it in the fuel tank."

He drives his van around, fixing air conditioners and refrigerators on boats.
The more gas prices rise, the more it costs him to do his job.

"There it goes up, cha-ching cha-ching cha-ching more fuel," he said. "With the price of fuel going up, people aren't using their boats. In fact, a lot of my customers have their boat on the market because it is just to costly for them to take it out."

His wife Patricia drives 60 miles round trip to work, leaving little money to enjoy life, let alone pay their bills.

"We have no buffer," Patricia said.

According to AAA, the average gas price in Florida is $2.94, a 9-cent increase from last week, up 15-cents from last month, and up 25-cents from a year ago. With oil prices surging above $90 a barrel for the first time in more than 2 years, national gas prices could average $3 a gallon before Christmas, leaving families like the Martins counting dollars and miles, hoping for some relief down the road.
"I say jokingly, but there's a lot of truth to it, we are basically one slip and fall from financial disaster," Patricia said.

AAA also reports, fuel consumption dropped off after the Thanksgiving push, and is down 1.8%, reaching its lowest level since October.