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Truck driver shortage causing fuel issues, not gas shortage

Pumps at some Columbus gas stations are closed because gas deliveries are delayed. Not because of a shortage of fuel, but because of a shortage of truck drivers.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — High gas prices leading into the Independence Day weekend do not appear to be slowing down drivers looking to travel.

“We are looking at in Ohio travel numbers being the third-highest on record,” says Kimberly Schwind, senior manager of public affairs at AAA Ohio. “Nationally we are expecting the second-highest travel volume on record. Just below 2019.”

Gas prices have averaged over $3 a gallon for the first time since 2014, and according to AAA, prices are expected to remain high for the remainder of the summer.

There are concerns about a gas shortage in Columbus after a few service stations have closed its pumps.

"The worst thing people can do is to panic buy because that actually puts more strain on the system and actually could make the situation worse,” said Schwinn.

Schwind tells 10TV there is actually a nationwide gas surplus but hauling it has become the main issue.

“[A] shortage in drivers is causing issues in getting that gasoline surplus to the stations. So any outages we are going to be seeing, particularly in Ohio or any other issues are going to be temporary,” said Schwind. “That’s also contributing to the higher gas prices. Many times, these drivers will have to drive longer distances to get the gas where it needs to be.”

“The supply is not the problem,” said Brad Ball, the president of Roadmaster Driver School, with 15 locations across the country and one in Columbus. 

“The problem is there are not enough drivers to drive the tanker trucks. As the public is starting to come out of COVID particularly going into summer, there are expectations of a lot of people driving and about 25% of the tanker trucks are going to sit idle because there's not enough drivers to drive them.”

This isn’t just affecting the fuel industry, but also the lumber and goods industries, according to Ball. Roadmaster Driver School is seeing more people signing up to attend classes to receive a commercial driver's license, a process that takes about four weeks to complete.

“Particularly now as the benefits are starting to dry out in a number of states, people are going to realize they are not going to have that benefit going forward. So now they are increasingly coming to us and starting school,” said Ball. 

“The shortage of drivers is not expected to go away anytime soon. In fact, the projection from the American Trucking Association is that the shortage of drivers is going to last for many years and potentially grow to 250,000 drivers short.”