A summer gas shortage is possible due to too few tanker drivers

With demand for fuel surging as the pandemic eases, and not enough drivers, prices could continue to climb amid the logistical bottleneck.

Sean Szymkowski
It all started with Gran Turismo. From those early PlayStation days, Sean was drawn to anything with four wheels. Prior to joining the Roadshow team, he was a freelance contributor for Motor Authority, The Car Connection and Green Car Reports. As for what's in the garage, Sean owns a 2016 Chevrolet SS, and yes, it has Holden badges.
Sean Szymkowski
2 min read
Gas pump

The conditions are ripe for a shortage.

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There's no shortage of oil or gasoline, but a logistical hiccup could create the perfect storm for a summer gas shortage -- just as demand surges as vaccinated Americans enter travel season. CNN reported on the brewing gas shortage Tuesday, citing comments from the National Tank Truck Carriers, an industry trade group representing tanker drivers.

Tanker drivers aren't like any other semi truck drivers. They require a specific certification to haul fuel in addition to a commercial driver's license and weeks of additional training after they're hired. Amid the pandemic, according to the trade group, tanker drivers left en masse as demand for fuel dried up and companies were left itching for work. Ryan Streblow, executive vice president of the NTTC, told CNN the industry was already in the midst of a driver shortage, but the pandemic created ripe conditions to further the dearth of eligible drivers. The NTTC did not immediately return Roadshow's request for comment.

But to underscore the problem, the NTTC said just 10% of of tankers sat idle in April 2019 due to driver shortages. Today, the figure sits between 20% and 25%. With demand on the up-and-up, you can see where the problem may become a real headache in the months to come.

According to AAA, the national average for a gallon of gas is $2.89, up from $1.77 this time last year. GasBuddy's analytical tracking of gas prices shows a sharp uptick in prices through the first part of 2021 as more Americans began traveling. A price plateau ended around the new year before prices trended upward through the middle of March. A period of stagnation occurred, but now, prices are rising yet again. Demand for gasoline is also up nearly 75% year-over-year and 10% month-over-month. Should driver scarcity continue, prices will likely continue rising as more Americans gas up cars for vacations or road trips previously put off due to pandemic precautions. It remains to be seen whether true gasoline shortages will ensue.

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