By Russ and Tiña De Maris
This week the media was full of dire warnings that RVers and other motor fuel users could see fuel pumps shut down by gas shortages. Will fuel shortages hit your RV tank, cutting your trip plans short? Well, there’s some truth to the news – and on the other hand, it may be blown out of proportion.

First, the facts

Here are the facts: First, there is plenty of motor fuel in the pipeline, both gasoline and diesel. During the pandemic there was actually an oil glut – so much so that at one point, crude oil prices went into the negative side of the ledger. At that time, theoretically, oil owners were paying to have the black stuff hauled away. With the COVID-19 scare tamping down, more folks are back on the road, the glut is gone, and fuel prices are predictably heading back up.

During Spring Break, some “hot” vacation spots saw some gas stations with shut-down pumps. What gives? Yes, plenty of fuel in the pipeline. The problem was, while there was no shortage of fuel, there was a shortage of fuel delivery drivers. That’s where the screaming headlines are coming from. How did this all come about?

What’s responsible?

Once again, COVID-19 is partially responsible. Driving a fuel tanker requires more than just a CDL (commercial driver’s license). Due to the hazardous nature of fuel, a special endorsement beyond a CDL is required and special training to go along with it. When COVID-19 rolled in, many truck driving schools shut down due to fear of passing along the illness. One industry source tells RVtravel.com that some 40% of classes were shut down. Even now, 20% of the nation’s truck driving schools are still closed down.

Add to the present issue, COVID also put a big crimp on fuel demand. At the height of the pandemic, a huge percentage of America’s drivers stayed home, or drastically curtailed their driving. That led to the earlier-mentioned fuel and oil glut. With stations selling way less fuel, far fewer deliveries were needed. Fewer deliveries meant tanker drivers were idled. The average age of truck drivers today is 55. When some of these older, certified tanker drivers got sidelined, some took it as a nudge from above to retire. With schools out of session, that made replacing those drivers all the more difficult.

Don’t blame COVID for everything. Uncle Sam is also cracking down on unsafe drivers. Last year a new system of tracking drivers who failed drug tests came online. Some 60,000 CDL-carrying drivers were recorded, and many of them simply didn’t do what was needed to clear themselves to drive again. Of those, it’s impossible to tell just how many were tanker-certified drivers; but, without a doubt, some were.

“I don’t believe the majority of Americans will have any problems finding gasoline this summer.”

If it all sounds like the perfect blend for a fuel shortage, based on a lack of delivery drivers, you’re right. BUT, says one fuel industry expert, don’t expect your RV travels will be cramped beyond movement. Patrick De Haan is the head of petroleum analysis with GasBuddy, the gargantuan fuel price monitoring and reporting service. De Haan told us, “With COVID recovery now well underway, demand for truckers is very high, and with gasoline demand rebounding, it’s been a challenge in some areas of the country where gasoline demand was especially brisk (Spring Break destinations, etc.) for stations to stay ahead of the demand with fewer truckers.”

All the same, this doesn’t translate to real trouble ahead. GasBuddy’s De Haan explains: “If the problems becomes acute enough, I’d expect politicians would ease some restrictions on hauling hours so that fewer truckers can make more deliveries, but we’re in a tender spot this summer.” He adds his expert view: “I don’t believe the majority of Americans will have any problems finding gasoline this summer.”

Echoing this view comes this statement from Pilot Flying J management: “We are preparing for a busy summer travel season and don’t anticipate any fuel shortages at our travel centers across the country. Our strong supply chain and fleet of drivers are essential to ensuring the availability of fuel at our stores so that our guests can continue to rely on Pilot and Flying J Travel Centers for their transportation needs.”

What you can do

Yeah, but what if fuel shortages do materialize, even on a somewhat minor scale? There are some things you can do. First, when you’re on the road, don’t dilly-dally about stopping for a fuel up. Pull off the road, fill the tank. We DON’T recommend carrying extra fuel cans. The more of the stuff you carry in auxiliary containers, the higher the degree of problems, like impacts from traffic accidents. GasBuddy’s Patrick De Haan does make a suggestion. “The GasBuddy app can turn into the app to not only find low-priced stations, but find stations with gas, if necessary, and we’re prepared to do so.” GasBuddy depends on members to provide real-time fuel prices, and in exceptional circumstances, to report the lack of fuel, too.

Fuel shortages this summer? Maybe, but probably not. Make your plans, take precautions, and enjoy your RV travels.

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Sherry
4 days ago

I appreciated this article but resent people turning it into a blame somebody thing. The conclusion of this article is there probably will not be fuel shortages and yes for a number of reasons the price of gas is going up. Sherry

Dr. Michael
4 days ago

“When COVID-19 rolled in, many truck driving schools shut down due to fear of passing along the illness”

The RV driver training program at Lazy Days in Tampa has also closed for the same reason. When I called a few weeks ago, they did not know when or if the program would open back up.

Montgomery Bonner
5 days ago

Oh forgot, since last year this time, our local gas price is up over dollar a gallon. The ***** in the WH, stopped the keystone pipeline, and stopped all fracking on federal land, so who is suppling us oil? Now you know it’s the middle east countries and Russia can sell us oil, now who sets the price, many countries who are our enemies. Prediction, by end of year, oil will be selling in the 90 dollar range, that will be close to 5-8 dollars a gallon for gasoline, and 9 dollars a gallon for diesel, better get those trips in now.

cee
5 days ago

 👎  Not nice to call people names Montgomery  🤐  You should also check your facts. President Biden didn’t stop all fracking… he stopped the processing of new permits. Sadly, fracking is alive and well. Those that were already permitted are free to frack and create air pollution and water contamination due to the toxic chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, among other environment concerns.
Just because it is said out loud doesn’t make it true… Fact Check!

C.Lee
4 days ago

Agreed. I hope prices don’t reach that high, but it’s no coincidence that Biden shutting off domestic supply is driving price increases. Unfortunately, a lot of American voters either don’t understand supply and demand, or just don’t care. Perhaps they’ll care when they go to fill up their fuel tanks this RV season and reconsider their voting patterns going forward. One can always hope.
As for shortages? I doubt that. American ingenuity means a way will be found around any “roadblocks” to distribution…it’s just that we will have to pay for it at the pump.

Last edited 4 days ago by C.Lee
Snayte
4 days ago

The keystone was for moving oil through the USA from Canada for foreign export and has very little to do with prices at the pump in the US. Prices have gone up because people are driving more due to lock-downs being lifted.

Montgomery Bonner
5 days ago

Lets make sure you are smart enough to even own RV, hmmm, you drive all day, you stop for the night, but did you fill the tank BEFORE you stopped? Lets say either a phone call, or a weather event, natural disaster, something which requires you to move in the night, along with everyone else, if your fuel tank is empty, you may run out of gas sitting in the fuel line at the station. Always fill tank prior to stopping for the night, keep the tank full when storing the rig. If PU, always fill up when half empty. You have seen the lines on the news, be smarter than every one of those folks in the fuel line. And know what your range is for a half tank and a fill tank, so if necessary you can drive the 750 miles or whatever to get away from the disaster and find fuel. Nuff Said, now you have a leg up on all those folks who do not plan ahead.

Admin
Kim Christiansen (@imkimc)
5 days ago

That’s great advice. Especially with the extra hot summers we’ve been having out west and all of the wild fires.

Ian C
5 days ago

And then I heard last week that there is going to be a chlorine shortage .Social Media strikes again

Steve
5 days ago

I don’t see a major shortage – either real or invented. This “report” will drive up prices and less people will drive because of cost. Just another way to make sheep follow.

Last edited 5 days ago by Steve
Mark S. Orlomoski
5 days ago

Welcome to the “crisis” of the week, every time you turn around it’s something else. According to CBS News on Friday there’s going to be a massive shortage of chicken soon too. Better rush out and buy about 10 tons of it in a panic along with filling your pool with gas! Panic buying, the new American past time. Anyone want to guess what’s next??

Bill N Stacey
5 days ago

I believe We all know WHO to “Thank” for the future rising pump prices…. Its not the lack of drivers for sure!!

Mike Albert
5 days ago
Reply to  Bill N Stacey

If you want to get technical, a shortage occurred from the freeze in the south (Texas, Louisiana) that impacted the power grid that was not funded due to being rejected by the government in Texas. They, not the Feds were responsible for building and maintaining a power grid with federal money available in the form of grants. But technically, the Feds could have stepped in to required and assist in the build.
So who you gonna blame now???

Richard Hughes
5 days ago
Reply to  Mike Albert

You are correct, but parrots can’t think, and they will continue to play the blame game and ignore the facts.

Joe
5 days ago
Reply to  Mike Albert

I worked for a major utility for 40 years, 25-30 years ago my state decided to de-regulate with the stipulation that we could not raise the price of power for 10 years except to pass through fuel increase, that just about ruined the industry. Power plants, distribution lines are maintained and built by the utility with some grant $$ for the building of new high voltage lines. The big thing the utilities had to fight was government regulations and the not in my back yard land owners to install and maintain right of ways. For a good bad example of building and maintaining power lines look to California. California puts all of the electrical grid faults solely on the utilities. however whenever the utilities try to maintain the right of way by clearing vegetation such as trees they are often stopped. Power plants and the grid are built for the anticipated temperatures, wind speeds, current and projected demand and usually error on the conservative side, if they are built for the what if conditions that Texas saw then you will probably not be able to afford the cost of electricity.

cee
5 days ago
Reply to  Mike Albert

 👍  👍 

Douglas Moesta
5 days ago

Let’s all live in the land of “What If”

Donald N Wright
5 days ago

I think the real crisis is when reporters and journalists cannot find meaningful work. It takes time to investigate a situation, something newspapers usually do.

Tommy Molnar
5 days ago

Reporting ‘news’ and investigation of same is a lost art. Reporters no longer report anything. They simply write stories that follow or support the ‘agenda’. Edward R. Murrow has left the building . . .

Ron T.
5 days ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

As anybody living in a small town knows, local newspapers and their reporters hardly exist anymore. Fewer reporter chasing the same if not more stories means less time for in-depth reports. Then their are all the untrained, undisciplined non-journalists who profess to provide “news” when it’s really just their opinion and that’s how we’ve gotten to where we are today.

Gordy B
4 days ago
Reply to  Ron T.

I have noticed lately that I will see something on FB and 1 to 3 days later it will be on the local news as fact. By the way “fact checking” seems to be the norm for local news outlets lately also.

Jim B
5 days ago

Kind of scary though to now know there are likely some gasoline tankers out there with a driver that has failed a drug test.

Diane Fox
5 days ago
Reply to  Jim B

Indeed!

Bob P
5 days ago
Reply to  Jim B

Yes there are truck drivers out there working for trucking companies who don’t follow the rules and pencil whip the inspection forms, personally I never worked for a company like that and never would because they’ll be telling you to do things that’ll get you killed. These are usually young drivers who still believe they are invincible as they did when they were teenagers. Most older drivers are mature enough to realize different. Now along with that lets drug test our politicians since they are making life and death decisions everyday that can be just as devastating as a driver on drugs.

Mike Albert
5 days ago
Reply to  Jim B

Overly tired drivers are also dangerous. Reaction times and critical thinking are severely impacted. So, it’s not just illegal/illicit narcotics, alcohol, it’s overly tired/worked drivers too. This goes for OTR drivers as well as RVers and car drivers.