Major gas shortages struck the East Coast earlier this year after a ransomware attack hit the company that operates a 5,000-mile oil pipeline along the coast. The pipeline was shut down, causing outages at some stations and subsequent panic buying that resulted in even worse, and more severe, shortages. Now, nearly two months later, some states are facing gas outages for a different reason—and it's not just the East Coast this time.
According to CNN, many people will soon run across some of the highest prices for gas that the country has seen in nearly seven years. The national average price for a gallon of regular gas is currently $3.12, per AAA—which is the highest it's been since October 2014. But high prices may be the least of your worries. Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis for the Oil Price Information Service that tracks prices for AAA, told CNN that the rising gas prices are the result of a rising demand for gas combined with a shortage of tank truck drivers, which could leave some areas without fuel. "It used to be an afterthought for station owners to schedule truck deliveries. Now it's job No. 1," Kloza told CNN.
A shortage of drivers is affecting every sector of the trucking industry, but drivers need special qualifications to operate tank trucks, which makes this sector's shortage even worse. According to the National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC), around 20 to 25 percent of tank trucks are sitting vacant because there is no one to drive them. At this time in 2019, only around 10 percent of tank trucks were vacant due to a lack of drivers.
"We've been dealing with a driver shortage for awhile, but the pandemic took that issue and metastasized it," Ryan Streblow, executive vice president of the NTTC, told CNN. "It certainly has grown exponentially."
Gas shortages may only get worse as the holiday weekend rolls in: AAA estimates that more than 43.6 million people in the U.S. will travel by car during the Fourth of July weekend. And Kloza says that the increased demand for gas in July as people continue to hit the roads they've avoided due to the pandemic will require about 2,500 to 3,000 more deliveries every day. "There just aren't the drivers to do that," he warned.
Kloza and Patrick DeHaan, the spokesperson for gas tracking app GasBuddy, told CNN that outages have already been reported in several states across the entire country because of the truck driver shortage. "There's not a gas shortage but there will be and are increases in prices over Fourth of July weekend. But my real concern is with the thousands of deliveries of fuel needed a day and the lack of drivers," DeHaan told USA Today.
The expert said that gas outages may continue over the next four to six weeks, as the demand has not yet hit its peak. Read on to find out if your state is already seeing gas stations without supply.
Kloza told NBC News that Northern California is seeing one of the greatest shortages of drivers, which means that it could take up to three to four days for stations in the area to resupply gas when they used to be able to get same-day delivery just a few months ago.
As a result, the state also currently has the highest gas prices in the U.S., at $4.28 per gallon, AAA reports.
Colorado is also seeing gas outages, per Kloza, and prices are up to $3.42 a gallon. According to the Denver Post, some outages have recently hit stations in southern Colorado and a few parts of Denver.
Gas prices are not just on the rise in Idaho, they've skyrocketed up to $3.44 per gallon. "Based on what we're seeing, pump prices aren't likely to peak until well into July," AAA Idaho spokesman Matthew Conde told the Independent Enterprise in mid-June.
"It might be tough to find gas [this weekend]," Idaho's local Eyewitness News 3 reported this week. "A shortage of tank truck drivers, along with the pandemic-related travel surge, is causing supply chain bottleneck."
DeHaan said there have recently been outages reported in Indianapolis, Indiana, specifically. Bloomberg spoke with Gary Langston, president of the Indiana Motor Truck Association, and reported that "hundreds of fuel trucks are sitting idle across the state with no one to drive them, including 150 at one fleet." In Indiana, a gallon of gas is now $3.10.
Recently, many eastern Iowa Casey's General Stores were without gas and DeHaan says that trend could continue. "Some gas stations throughout the Great Lakes and Midwest, in fact, are looking at such a big challenge that they're offering up to $15,000 sign-on bonuses for tanker truck drivers," DeHaan told a local ABC News station. But he says gas prices aren't awful there yet, currently at $2.96 a gallon.
"The economy's reopening, Americans are getting out and about, and demand for gasoline is surging faster than supply can keep up," DeHaan later told Iowa's WHO Newsradio 1040, citing outages in the central region of the state as well.
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DeHaan also said some outages have recently been reported in Columbus, Ohio. But again, it's not due to a lack of gas—it's a lack of drivers who can deliver it.
"There is plenty of gasoline in the state of Ohio, so there's no reason to hoard gasoline," Alex Boehnke, spokesman for the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants, told Bloomberg. "In the event that your local gas station has pumps shut down, I'd recommend just going down the street a little bit to provide you with the fuel you need to go on that weekend trip." Gas will cost you about $3.06 per gallon right now in the Buckeye State.
According to AAA, Washington state currently has the third highest gas prices in the U.S., at $3.76 a gallon.
"There is ample gas in the United States, but what we're seeing in some of these markets is bagged pumps, because with this shortage of drivers, fuel deliveries are delayed,'' Jeanette McGee, director of communication at auto club AAA, told Bloomberg. "What we don't want to happen this holiday is for someone to see a bagged pump and start to panic."