Jonesing to take a road trip this summer? Good luck finding gas.
This isn't the typical California summer gas price hike. This predicted shortage isn't due to a lack of crude oil or gasoline, but because there aren't enough truck drivers to deliver the supply to gas stations. According to the National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC), roughly 20-25% of tank trucks in the fleet are parked. Whereas two years ago, only 10% of trucks were parked. Ryan Streblow, the Executive Vice President of the NTTC, had this to say:
"We've been dealing with a driver shortage for a while, but the pandemic took that issue and metastasized it. It certainly has grown exponentially."
Many drivers left the business when the pandemic shutdowns brought gasoline demand to a near complete halt, with many people not driving to work. Additionally, according to Holly McCormick (in charge of driver recruitment at Groendyke Transport):
"A lot of drivers didn't want to do the safety protocols. We're also working with an aging work force. Many said 'I might as well take it as a cue to retire.'"
Add in the fact that tanker trucks require not only a commercial drivers license, are physically strenuous, require additional training and special certification-- it's no wonder finding new drivers is difficult. Additionally, many driving schools shut down early in the pandemic, thus limiting the pool of trained drivers to replenish the workforce.
Some tanker operators are opting to raise pay just to get drivers seats filled. The demand for gas is up to 97% compared to this time in 2019 and this has gas station retailers worried about the ripple effect.
"I've talked to retailers, they say there could be places where there are brief outages. If they have no fuel, they have no business. People aren't going to stop in for a sandwich if you don't have fuel."
And of course, after all the insanity we've seen with people hoarding toilet paper, many people are worried about crowd mentality taking over and enhancing the predicted shortage. Currently, the national average price of regular gas is around$2.89/gallon (+60% higher than this time last year). The prices are expected to hover around $3/gallon (nationally) this summer, which probably means close $4/gallon here in California.