There’s Gasoline Aplenty But a Paucity of Tanker Drivers

The ongoing trucker shortage has created the wrong impression that fuel is in short supply. 

June 30, 2021

American Flag on Car Dashboard

NEW YORK—This Independence Day, millions of Americans are ready to travel by car, but some consumer advocates and industry watchers worry that the continued shortage of truck drivers who transport fuel from refineries to gas stations means that some c-stores in certain parts of the U.S. risk running low on fuel, CNN Business reports.

On the heels of the temporary Colonial Pipeline shutdown in May due to a ransomware attack, consumers may be spooked into thinking there’s a gasoline shortage. That’s not the case, explained Jeff Lenard, NACS vice president of strategic industry initiatives.

“We have the same advice we had [during May’s Colonial Pipeline shutdown]—this is not the time to fill up every car you have and every container you have,” Lenard told CNN. “We hate to see shortages and outages caused by drivers panicking and topping off their tanks.”

Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis for the Oil Price Information Service, indicated that there are numerous U.S. gas stations without gas from Colorado to Iowa, the Pacific Northwest to Northern California and from Indianapolis to Columbus, Ohio.

“It used to be an afterthought for station owners to schedule truck deliveries. Now it's job No. 1," Kloza told CNN. "What I'm worried about for July is the increased demand works out to about 2,500 to 3,000 more deliveries needed every day. There just aren't the drivers to do that.”

The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that U.S. gasoline demand is mirroring the same period in 2019. However, overall demand has jumped 16% since the end of 2020. AAA predicted 43.6 million Americans will hit the road this Fourth of July weekend.

The trucking industry has had trouble finding drivers and exacerbating the problem is that tank truck drivers must have special qualifications.

"We've been dealing with a driver shortage for a while, but the pandemic took that issue and metastasized it," said Ryan Streblow, executive vice president for the National Tank Truck Carriers. "It certainly has grown exponentially."

Bob Costello, chief economist for the American Trucking Associations, said demand for gasoline is helping support freight tonnage, which remains well above lows seen in 2020. “As been the case for some time, trucking’s biggest challenges are not on the demand side, but on the supply side, including difficulty finding qualified drivers.”

A two-part NACS Daily series recently examined the truck driver shortage. Read “Trucker Shortage Hits Home” and “Higher Pay for the Long Haul.”

NACS leaned on its deep-rooted relationships with the federal government and policymakers to advocate for the convenience and fuel retailing industry throughout the Colonial Pipeline shutdown. Get the back story of the role NACS played behind the scenes to secure regulatory waivers and explain how the nation’s fuel supply works to Biden Administration officials in the Inside Washington column in the just-released July issue of NACS Magazine.

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