May 8, 2021

Planning a Road Trip? Make Sure Your Plans Don’t Run Out of Gas

Planning a Road Trip? Make Sure Your Plans Don’t Run Out of Gas

Remember in the early days of COVID, where everything from dairy products to toilet paper was in short supply? Now, one year later, you may be experiencing a new kind of shortage that could dramatically affect your summer road trip plans. Gassing up the family truckster might be a challenge this year as news of a gas shortage is making headlines. Of course, this shortage might not affect all drivers, including members of the Pop Culture Show, as they explain in this clip.

While there’s no good time for a gas shortage, this news couldn’t come at a more inopportune time, with people itching to pack up and get away from it all. After over a year of quarantine, lockdowns and at-home staycations, people are ready for an escape. Travel website Tripadvisor's 2021 Summer Travel Index found that 67% of Americans plan to take a trip this summer, between June 1 and August 31st and over 40% of travelers plan to drive to their destination, which is where the potential petroleum shortage could come into play. 

According to CNN, it’s not that gas or oil is in short supply, there are just fewer tanker truck drivers to get the fuel to a gas station near you.  At the start of the pandemic, truck driving schools, like all educational institutions, were shut down and, as a result, the number of qualified drivers is on the low side. The trucking industry’s trade association, the National Tank Truck Carriers, says that between 20-25% of their fleet is stalled because of this lack of drivers. The NTTC’s executive vice president, Ryan Streblow told CNN, "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."

In addition to the driver shortage, a federal program that went into effect in January of 2020 has sidelined between 40,000 and 60,000 truck drivers. The federal Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse is an electronic database that tracks commercial driver’s license holders who have tested positive for prohibited drug or alcohol use, as well as refusals to take required drug tests, and other drug and alcohol violations. 

Some drivers who still hold their CDL left for more lucrative pastures when the pandemic hit including the booming construction industry. Tanker operators are raising pay in order to lure back drivers and raising the rates they charge customers accordingly, so if you can get gas, it may be a little more expensive than you expected. Eric McCormick, who runs the workforce committee for NTTC said, "I had to double my recruiting budget to get the same number of drivers." Even with offers of higher pay, it looks like there simply won't be enough drivers to get all of the gasoline in the U.S. where it needs to go this summer.

If you are planning to hop in the car for a summer break, the AAA has a few tips to help improve your fuel economy, including putting down the windows and minimizing the use of air conditioning, parking in the shade, packing light, and skipping roof racks and special carriers if you don’t need them. You’ve waited a year for a vacation, so taking some time to plan and be prepared for your trip is going to make your time away even more enjoyable.