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Summer gas prices expected to increase

A trucker shortage and a cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline are expected to impact the availability and price of gasoline.

According to AAA, during the first week of May, the National average of gasoline jumped by 6 cents per gallon, averaging $2.96 a gallon. If this trend continues, it would make the national gas average the most expensive since November, 2014.

Until the closure of the Colonial Pipeline, the problem was a delivery problem, rather than a supply problem. There simply aren’t enough truck drivers to move the fuel.

And experts say that without drivers available, gas supplies could become tight in some areas.

Ryan Streblow, the executive vice president for the National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC) told CNN this May that the truck driver shortage has been growing exponentially.

“We’ve been dealing with a driver shortage for a while, but the pandemic took that issue and metastasized it,” Streblow said.

This is a result of pandemic lockdowns which kept Americans at home, collapsing fuel demand. When tanker drivers weren’t getting enough routes, some chose to leave the business, taking the situation as a cue to retire.

Further exacerbating the issue, CNN reports there is a new federal clearinghouse that went online in January, 2020, to identify truck drivers with prior drug or alcohol violations or failed drug tests, which removed between 40,000 to 60,000 total drivers out of the national employment pool.

Meanwhile, becoming a truck driver requires special certifications, which includes a commercial drivers license, as well as weeks of on-the-job training. Not to mention that the job itself involves long, hard, lonely hours – it is definitely not work for everyone.

According to the NTTC, between 20% to 25% of tank trucks in the fleet are now parked heading into this summer due to a lack of qualified drivers. At this same time in 2019, only 10% of trucks were sitting idle for that reason.

Now, with the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline, which delivers approximately 45% of all fuel to the east coast, the impact is uncertain. At press time, the pipeline, running from Texas to New York Harbor, is shut down, and there is no word on when the main line will be operational.

According to AAA spokesperson Jeanette McGee, “This shutdown will have implications on both gasoline supply and prices, but the impact will vary regionally. Areas including Mississippi, Tennessee and the east coast from Georgia into Delaware are most likely to experience limited fuel availability and price increases.”

The longer the pipeline is offline, the larger the impact.

AAA urges against panic-buying of gasoline, and offers the following tips to conserve fuel:

• Plan ahead to accomplish multiple errands in one trip, and whenever possible avoid high-traffic times of day.

• If you own more than one car, use the most fuel-efficient model that meets the needs of any given journey.

• Remove unnecessary and bulky items from your car. Minimize your use of roof racks and remove special carriers when not in use. It takes more fuel to accelerate a heavier car, and the reduction in fuel economy is greater for small cars than for larger models.

• Minimize your use of air conditioning. Even at highway speeds, open windows have less effect on fuel economy than the engine power required to operate the air conditioning compressor.

• In hot weather, park in the shade or use a windshield sunscreen to lessen heat buildup inside the car. This reduces the need for air conditioning (and thus fuel) to cool down the car.

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