Beware a Summer Gas Shortage Even Though There is Plenty of Fuel

Nothing is quite as panic-inducing as a gas shortage. We have come to rely on the smelly stuff for almost everything we do. However, unlike atypical shortage, the one we may be heading toward this summer has nothing to do with supply. While demand is still up from the COVID-19 pandemic, the problem we face is how to get the fuel from the refineries to the pumps. 

A tanker truck delivers gasoline to a gas station  | Tim Boyle/Getty Images
A tanker truck delivers gasoline to a gas station | Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Summer gas shortages are inbound

Kelly Blue Book reports that a potential gas shortage may be coming our way this summer as more drivers take to the road. Summer tends to be the season of road trips, and with that comes more fuel usage. 

Unlike previous gas shortages, this possible one wouldn’t be due to a lack of gas, instead of a lack of tanker drivers. The National Tank Truck Carriers, the trade group representing the tanker truck industry, says that nearly a quarter of the national fleet is sitting with cold engines. 

There is plenty of fuel to go around, but unless gasoline grows its own legs, it will struggle to get to the pumps. Once the lockdowns of 2020 began, the need for tanker drivers dropped dramatically. As people stayed home, more gas demand plummeted, as did its prices. 

Here we are over a year later, and people are hitting the road in big numbers, worrying gas suppliers about their supply. 

It’s really more like a driver shortage 

Apparently, the driver shortage has been a problem for a while, and the COVID lockdowns took some of the pressure off the need. However, now the demand is climbing, and the tanker driver supply isn’t. 

Executive Vice President Ryan Streblow said, “We’ve been dealing with a driver shortage for a while, but the pandemic took that issue and metastasized it.” 

gas shortage threatens to rack USA this summer as someone puts gas into their car
A gasoline station pumps fuel | Illustration by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

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Obviously, driving a fuel tanker isn’t just like driving a car. This job takes specialized training due to the volatility of the payload. 

To make matters worse, many of the driving schools that train the tanker drivers were closed during the lockdowns, limiting the pool of qualified drivers. 

KBB mentions that Holly McCormick, vice president in charge of driver recruitment and retention at Groendyke Transport, told CNN that her company is “also working with an aging workforce.” As lockdowns forced a lull in the tanking industry last year, “many said ‘I might as well take it as a cue to retire.’”

Increased demand and short supply

AAA reports that the gasoline demand is 65 percent higher this April than in April of 2020. If this trend continues, which it likely will, the summer demand will be significantly higher than last year’s as well. If the tanker driver situation continues, we are likely to see the shortage hit this summer. 

Gas prices have already started to show a run. Last year prices were down below $2 per gallon, and now the national average is at $2.88. If signs of a gas shortage start to show in real life, people will line up at the gas stations, only exacerbating the shortage.