Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Summer may bring fuel shortages due to tanker-truck driver shortage, could raise farming costs and inhibit tourism

Gasoline may be in short supply at the pump this summer. There's plenty of crude oil and gasoline, but refineries can't find enough qualified tanker-truck drivers to get it to the gas stations.

"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," Chris Isidore reports for CNN. "Drivers left the business a year ago when gasoline demand ground to a near halt during the early pandemic-related shutdowns."

NTTC executive vice president Ryan Streblow told Isidore that driver shortages have been a long-standing issue, but the pandemic "metastasized it" and caused it to grow "exponentially."

Oklahoma tanker-truck executive Holly McCormick cited another factor: "We're also working with an aging work force. Many said 'I might as well take it as a cue to retire.'" She also said the shutdown of many driver schools early in the pandemic disrupted the pipeline of new drivers who would have taken many retirees' places. "And then there's a new federal clearinghouse that went online in January 2020 to identify truck drivers with prior drug or alcohol violations or failed drug tests, which knocked about 40,000 to 60,000 total drivers out of the national employment pool," Isidore reports.

Truck drivers have been in short supply for about 25 years, a problem that has grown more acute in the past five years or so. But tanker-truck driving is more specialized, requiring extra certification and training. "And while the jobs are more attractive than some long-haul trucking jobs that can keep drivers away from home for days or weeks at a time, it is strenuous, difficult work," Isidore reports, adding that a gas shortage and higher prices could raise farming costs and grocery prices, and, if vacationers can't afford to hit the road, that could hurt rural areas that depend on tourism.

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