Gas Shortages Ahead of July 4th Weekend Caused By Lack of Truck Drivers, Not Low Supply

Fuel tanker deposits gasoline into storage tank at the gas station.
JohnnyH5 / Getty Images/iStockphoto

If you see long lines and empty pumps at gas stations this Fourth of July weekend, don’t blame a shortage of gas. Instead, blame a lack of truck drivers available to deliver that gas to its final destination.

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That’s the assessment of Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, a fuel savings platform that offers drivers ways to save money on fuel.

In a Wednesday interview with CNBC, De Hann said a nationwide shortage of drivers is the main cause of fuel delivery disruptions at some of the country’s gas stations.

“This is a labor challenge; there’s no fuel shortage,” De Haan said on CNBC’s “Power Lunch.” In fact, he said, production at refineries is near an all-time high this summer in terms of gallons of gasoline.

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“The problem is getting that gasoline the last leg of its journey from a local terminal to the gas station, and we’re starting to see some of these delivery delays,” De Haan said.

National Tank Truck Carriers, an industry group, estimates that the U.S. trucking industry is short at least 50,000 drivers. That’s partly because retiring older drivers are not being replaced by enough younger drivers and partly because of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As CNN reported last month, not even industry-wide pay increases have done much to ease the driver shortage. In fact, the pay hikes are prompting many drivers to go from one company to the next, creating an annual turnover rate of 95% for truckload carriers who haul trailer-size shipments over long distances.

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One result is that gas stations in certain parts of the country might experience service interruptions during what is expected to be a very busy holiday weekend for travel. According to De Haan, smaller gas station operators might find it especially difficult to get gas delivered.

He doesn’t expect the driver shortage to have a meaningful impact on gas prices. But you can still expect prices to be on the steep side. In a June 23 press release, GasBuddy said gas prices will remain at their highest level since 2014 over the July 4 weekend, with many drivers seeing prices hover above $3 per gallon.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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