A recent report states that a worsening semi-truck driver shortage may cause higher fuel prices and/or gas shortages this summer. According to the National Tank Truck Carriers industry trade group somewhere between 20% to 25% of tanker trucks in the fleet are parked and non in use heading into this summer season. Reportedly, during the same time period of 2019, about 10% of the tank trucks were sitting idle for this reason. What is the cause for all this? Here are some of the factors that are involved.
Driving a fuel-tanker truck is a strenuous job that requires certification and skill. Naturally, this job requires a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).
A CDL requires several written tests and inspection and driver’s exams. I recently completed the process and got a CDL for a Class A truck or a truck+trailer combination vehicle. This required a lot of “book” studying for the written tests, but the actual driving practice had to be done at a truck driver school. I went to Southwest Truck Driver Training, and I felt that I could not have passed the driving tests without the help of the school.
However, a fuel tanker truck requires additional certifications. There is a separate Tanker certification and a Hazardous Materials (HazMat) certification. The tanker truck that is carrying any liquid cargo, such as milk or vegetable oil is more difficult to drive because the cargo has a tendency to move. Most milk tankers do not use baffles inside the tank because bacteria can grow there. The driver must be smooth and deliberate when accelerating, stopping, and turning as not to upset the load. The tankers tend to have a higher center of gravity, so they have a higher tendency to flip when turning.
When carrying chemicals or fuel, this also requires a HazMat certification. The driver must observe additional safety measures to protect the cargo and everyone around it.
Truck driver schools have been either closed or operated at lower classroom capacity due to Covid-19 restrictions. This basically means that there are fewer certified drivers entering the workforce. With low fuel demand during the Covid-19 shutdown, some tanker drivers found jobs driving other types of trucks. Some drivers are retiring. A recent industry reports states that the current average age of a truck driver is 55.
All of these factors are combining for a significant fuel tanker driver shortage. This may cause fuel shortages in some regions, specifically vacation destination spots. There is preliminary data that shows that hotel reservations are increasing at a quicker pace than flight purchases. This may be an indication that more people are considering driving to their vacation destinations, rather than flying. Certainly, this is confirmed by increased motor home and travel trailer sales.
According to Gasprices.AAA.com – the recent national average price per gallon of gasoline is holding about steady.
We will monitor this situation closely and report as updates arise.