Truck driver shortage could fuel spike in gas prices
Economists warn that fueling up could be challenging as millions of people return to the roads
A looming fuel shortage could mean more pain at the pump this summer, but it’s not due to a lack of oil and gasoline production.
Instead, the drivers needed to deliver the fuel to gas stations are in short supply.
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According to the National Tank Truck Carriers trade group, up to 25% of trucks are parked around the country because there are not enough qualified tank truck drivers. That number is up 15% from the beginning of last summer.
The demand for drivers took a hit when pandemic-induced lockdowns triggered steep declines in the gasoline market, and drivers opted for other jobs. However, the return to pre-pandemic numbers has been further undermined by unemployment benefits and stimulus checks keeping people away from jumping back into the workforce.
"It’s harder to get people to work in a vacation area, when they can get paid to stay at home," Phil Flynn, senior executive and market analyst of the Price Futures Group, told FOX Business. Flynn is also a network contributor.
In addition to government aid, which can amount to more than weekly wages, the tank truck driver industry faces more barriers to entry than a regular truck driving career.
The process can take up to six months to obtain a license. In order to be certified, tank truck drivers must obtain a commercial driver’s license, complete a four-week course, as well as 160 hours of training. As truck driving schools remained shut down, the pipeline of new drivers prepared to replace retired drivers has also dried up.
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Now, economists are warning that fueling up with gasoline could be especially challenging as millions of people return to the roads after a year of being stuck at home. As a result, drivers can expect gas prices to tick up, FOX Business’s Grady Trimble told Varney & Co.
"This is just getting started," Flynn told FOX Business. "We’re seeing this huge surge in demand. People want to go on vacation, and vacation areas could be the hardest hit."
Fuel shortages are likely to take effect at the beginning of summer in markets that are popular summer destinations, like the beach or mountains, according to industry experts. Most outages to date have been reported in places like Florida, Arizona and northwest Missouri during the recent spring break period.
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During this time, the national average price of gas could reach $3.50 a gallon.
To avoid running into gasoline roadblocks, AAA spokesperson Jeanette McGee told FOX Business the organization recommends conserving fuel by combining errands, cutting back on air conditioning and choosing the more fuel-friendly vehicle for owners with more than one car.
"And fuel up ahead of getting to your destination," McGee said. "Gas is likely to be cheaper than in the town."