Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, told CNBC on Wednesday that a shortage of truck drivers is causing fuel delivery disruptions at some gas stations.
“This is a labor challenge. There’s no fuel shortage,” De Haan said on “Power Lunch,” explaining that refineries are “producing nearly all-time record highs in terms of gallons of gasoline this summer.”
“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,” he said.
According to National Tank Truck Carriers, the trucking industry is short at least 50,000 drivers. De Haan said it’s been a “brewing problem” since 2017 that was accelerated by the Covid pandemic, when gasoline demand plummeted.
Some companies let their truck drivers go, while other drivers took early retirement, De Haan said. Now, gas station chains are offering sign-on bonuses ranging from $5,000 to $15,000 to prospective drivers, he said.
De Haan said the current fuel delivery challenges are different from the Colonial Pipeline outage last month, which, in Southeastern states such as Georgia and North Carolina, was followed by a jump in prices at the pump and some stations running out of fuel.
In this instance, De Haan said fuel delivery days related to trucking availability will not have a “meaningful” impact on the price of gasoline. However, oil production levels and “basically every other aspect of this recovering economy” are leading to higher prices, he said.
That is up from $3.045 per gallon a month ago. It stood at $2.178 per gallon one year ago, according to AAA, when travel was still sharply curtailed due to Covid restrictions.
De Haan said smaller gas station operators may find it more difficult than larger chains to navigate the current trucking landscape.
“This is kind of a survival of the fittest, and those truckers that are delivering for third parties, they may find it more lucrative to go somewhere else and deliver gasoline, so there’s kind of this fighting going on with the truck drivers that do exist,” De Haan said. “Everyone’s getting fooled and, unfortunately, for now, as the nation’s gasoline demand continues to rise, this is going to be more challenging in the future.”