Memorial Day weekend is in progress – and if you’re out in it, get ready to open your wallet a little wider than in recent times. Auto support group AAA says it anticipates this will be the most expensive Memorial Day weekend for gas prices since 2014. AAA thinks nearly 37 million Americans will be traveling over the long weekend, most of them by car and plane – up 60% compared to last year. All that demand will spell price jumps at the pumps.
The gas shortages experienced earlier this month when a key pipeline in the East shut down could once again be on the horizon, according to some experts. This time, CNN reports, the squeeze could be triggered by the lack of tank truck drivers to deliver the fuel, and a repeat of panic buying by travelers topping off their tanks. “I think we have to worry about prices, supply and crowd behavior,” said Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis for the Oil Price Information Service, which tracks gas prices for AAA.
An estimated 20% to 25% of tanker trucks are currently parked due to a lack of drivers, according to National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC), the industry’s trade group. But even before the pandemic, there was a driver shortage as the industry lost a number of them during the economic slowdown that caused the demand for gas to plunge.
BUT THERE’S MORE to the driver shortage story, according to NTTC’s interim president, Ryan Streblow. “While it’s true fewer fuel-hauling trucks were parked at this time in 2019, and the pandemic is a factor on several levels, so is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s new Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse, which has sidelined nearly 50,000 drivers; and the underlying issue — a severe driver shortage — is nothing novel to the overall trucking industry. We’re all searching for good, qualified professional drivers,” he said.
According to CNN, last year, stay-at-home orders early in the pandemic caused oil and gas prices to crash, taking the average per gallon price below $2. But even when compared to Memorial Day of 2019, prices are still up 7% this year.
Not everyone agrees that prices will keep climbing. Stephanie Asymkos, writing in Yahoo News, wrote: “We remain well under where we were from our country’s record high, which was July 2008, when gas prices were over $4 a gallon. And that was the average nationally. So industry experts have assured me that fuel shortages shouldn’t be an issue. Pump prices will level out. And the great news is that price predictions indicate that we won’t even touch the record high this summer. So a little bit of good news there.”
What do you think is ahead, especially as it applies to you? That’s our question in today’s (May 30, 2021) reader poll. Answer it here and see how others respond.