If you’re looking toward the summer as an opportunity to hit the road and undergo some much needed travel therapy, you might find yourself stuck. That’s because we might be facing a gas shortage because there just aren’t enough tanker drivers to deliver the gas where it needs to go, CNN reports.
Here’s a little more from the article:
According to the National Tank Truck Carriers, the industry’s trade group, somewhere between 20% to 25% of tank trucks in the fleet are parked heading into this summer due to a paucity of qualified drivers. At this point in 2019, only 10% of trucks were sitting idle for that reason.
“We’ve been dealing with a driver shortage for a while, but the pandemic took that issue and metastasized it,” said Ryan Streblow, the executive vice president of the NTTC. “It certainly has grown exponentially.”
Indeed, drivers left the business a year ago when gasoline demand ground to a near halt during the early pandemic-related shutdowns.
The NTTC even had its tank drivers delivering Amazon packages for a while, just to keep them gainfully employed. But it wasn’t enough.
“A lot of drivers didn’t want to do the safety protocols,” said Holly McCormick, vice president in charge of driver recruitment and retention at Groendyke Transport, an Oklahoma tanker company. “We’re also working with an aging work force. Many said ‘I might as well take it as a cue to retire.’”
And it’s not simple to get a rapid turnaround to replace those drivers. Prospective drivers need a commercial driver’s license, special certification, and weeks of training. And that’s assuming you have interested candidates for a difficult job, even with companies drastically increasing pay rates.
Obviously, without enough drivers, it’s going to take longer to deliver gas where it needs to go. Jeff Lenard, spokesman at the National Association of Convenience Stores, said that his constituents have already been recognizing weaknesses in the supply system, and that they’re expecting hot spot areas to be adversely affected—and, as a result, they’ll lose business.
Of course, even talking about a gas shortage can exacerbate the problem—people tend to immediately jump to the store to buy up any goods that might in short supply. Which isn’t ideal right now, with car travel just about back to pre-pandemic levels and with an increased interest in summer travel (right now, there are more hotels booked than airplane tickets, which suggests road travel). We can expect to see gas prices soar over $3 a gallon—and that’s if you can find gas to begin with.
And this issues goes well beyond just gasoline. The California Farm Bureau reports that food processors are worried there won’t be enough drivers to transport produce during harvest season.