Driver scarcity could lead to one-time fuel shortages
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Trucking and oil industry experts warn of possible delays in fuel deliveries at the height of the summer driving season, as the shortage of drivers – especially among tanker drivers – could slow down service to petrol stations.
“We have feared since May that the only problem that will arise in July and August will be the difficulty of getting fuel from the oil terminals for the last kilometers – the last 60 kilometers to the stations,” the news service said. oil prices. Founder and industry analyst Tom Kloza told Transport Topics. “We have only had cases – where there have been breakdowns – where there has been, maybe, someone unleaded for six or 12 hours, but the driver shortage is real.”
Kloza said tanker companies have enough equipment to get fuel to service stations, but industry officials told him the industry lacks around 16% of the drivers it has. daily need to supply stations.
Kloza said he was concerned that if a station went without fuel for just a few hours, the news could spread across social media and lead to panic buying like the one seen in the aftermath of the Colonial Pipeline shutdown. After suspected Russian hackers on May 7 seized control of the computer network that operated the company’s pipeline – which supplies gasoline and diesel shipments along the east coast – the panic fuel purchase s ‘is installed.
“I see a large portion of the American public that is prone to apoplexy this year,” Kloza said. “I’m not predicting generalized blackouts – it’s transient – but what will the reaction be? It is impossible to predict human behavior.
A report from the US Energy Information Administration said gasoline demand is virtually identical to what it was during the same period of 2019, but is up 16% from the end of 2020, while many Americans still stayed at home amid the pandemic.
The increased demand for fuel comes at a time when the price of gasoline and diesel continues to rise. According to the EIA, gasoline costs an average of $ 3.06 per gallon nationwide, up 93 cents from a year ago. Diesel cost an average of $ 3.29 a gallon on June 21, 86 cents more than a year ago.
American Trucking Associations chief economist Bob Costello noted that many tanker companies laid off drivers last year as the economy plunged into recession and demand for fuel grew. collapsed. Now the demand is picking up and these companies are hiring again.
“Gas stations weren’t consuming as much fuel and tanker companies laid off drivers a year ago. Now you don’t just flip a switch and say, “Hey, we’re back. They need to rehire and train these drivers, ”Costello said. “It takes a lot of practice. It’s one thing to drive a truck, but quite another to put fuel in the tank.
Ryan Streblow, the new president and CEO of National Tank Truck Carriers, said his group faces several challenges in attracting new drivers to the industry. He cites the COVID-19 pandemic and an associated wave of retirements, pandemic-related closures of state departments of motor vehicles that have slowed the flow of new drivers, restrictions on driving schools and additional hazardous material qualifications that tank truck drivers need before being allowed to deliver fuel or chemicals.
“Families going on vacation, volleyball tournaments, camping, baseball tournaments, the demand is there. We just don’t have the resources available to move this commodity from point A to point B, ”Streblow said. “It goes far beyond fuel. Our chemical carriers, our food grade products, our dry bulk aggregates – they’re all in one boat, looking for qualified drivers. We believe this is an issue that we will be fighting for for a while. “
Streblow said between 10% and 25% of tankers are idling due to the driver shortage.
Carbon Express, based in Wharton, NJ, is a liquid bulk carrier that transports fuel and other products. CEO Steve Rush told TT that the shortage of drivers in the oil tanker industry was a very difficult challenge, and noted that his company had recently increased driver wages several times to keep and attract drivers. Rush said his company pays drivers by the hour plus bonuses – instead of mileage – which has increased their overall compensation and kept its driver turnover rate in single digits. He said many of his drivers earn over $ 95,000 a year.
“Pay them on time. It’s not what you pay, it’s how you pay, ”Rush said. “The shortage of drivers is terrible. Competition for pilots is intense. We know what’s going on.
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