There is no gas shortage this July 4 weekend. But some experts are asking Americans to be slightly more cautious than usual as they prepare for holiday weekend trips.
AAA: Fill Up When You Have 1/4 Tank Left
“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 for AAA, told reporters Thursday. All the same, the world’s largest auto club is recommending that drivers refill when the gas needle drops to about a quarter.
“What we don’t want to happen this holiday is for someone to see a bagged pump and start to panic,” McGee says.
Plenty of Gas, But Slower Deliveries
Why? Because there’s a shortage of drivers qualified to drive the tanker trucks that deliver gas. That can lead to some pumps temporarily running dry. A heavy travel weekend means more drivers filling up than on a normal day. But fewer delivery trucks means that stations might be left waiting for a refill.
Some states have seen stations briefly run out this week, Bloomberg reports. Ohio, Colorado, Iowa, Indiana, Arkansas, North Carolina, California, Florida, Nevada, Washington, and Oregon have all had stations bag pumps temporarily while they waited for fuel deliveries.
There is no threat of a gas shortage. Patrick DeHaan, an analyst with GasBuddy, told CNBC yesterday that “production at refineries is near an all-time high this summer.” Instead, “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.”
Ongoing Driver Shortage
National Tank Truck Carriers, a trade association representing tanker truck drivers, estimates that the U.S. trucking industry is short at least 50,000 drivers. Driving a gasoline tanker truck requires special certifications beyond a commercial driver’s license. Many of the schools that issue those certifications closed during COVID-19-related lockdowns in 2020.
The driver workforce also saw a surge of retirements as demand for gasoline fell during the lockdowns. Most pandemic-related restrictions have lifted and America is driving again. But there aren’t enough tanker truck drivers to keep the gasoline supply flowing without small interruptions here and there.
The national average price for a gallon of gas stood at $3.12 at publication time – above the $2.86 seen heading into July 4 weekend in the last pre-pandemic year, 2019.