Rising prices at the pump will not be the biggest problem for some drivers this holiday weekend. Their biggest problem will be empty pumps - the result of a shortage of tanker truck drivers.
GasBuddy's Patrick De Hann tweeted yesterday there were no issues with the production of fuels, but the shortage of tanker truck drivers was compromising supply in some parts of the United States.
The shortage is a national problem that emerged before the pandemic, but the pandemic made an already bad situation worse by shutting down tanker truck driving schools. As a result, CNN reports, about a quarter of U.S. tanker trucks are currently parked for lack of qualified drivers. This compares to 10 percent in 2019.
At the same time, demand for fuels is on the rise - and so are the prices. The national average hit the highest since October 2014, at $3.10 per gallon, and demand has returned to 2019 levels, based on Energy Information Administration data. This suggests the shortages may persist. Related: Number Of U.S. Drilled But Uncompleted Wells Drops 27% In A Year
"It used to be an afterthought for station owners to schedule truck deliveries. Now it's job No. 1," Tom Kloza, the global head of energy analysis for the Oil Price Information Service, says, as quoted by 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 tanker truck driver shortage is one of the many ways in which the pandemic disrupted supply chains across industries. Like other disruptions, this one will likely linger because training new qualified tanker truck drivers takes time that cannot be shortened. This means supply will remain tight, as OPIS' Kloza said, for the observable future, in all likelihood pushing prices at the pump higher.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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