Demand for gas is now nearly at pre-pandemic levels and could hit new highs this summer—but the industry is desperately low on drivers who can bring it to gas stations. Industry groups say there's no current shortage of gas, but the chronic shortage of tanker truck drivers has "grown exponentially" since the start of the pandemic, CNN reports. Groendyke Transport exec Holly McCormick says many drivers decided to retire when demand ground to a halt last year, and others left the industry because they didn't want to do the safety protocols. McCormick says driving schools were shut down early in the pandemic and a federal clearinghouse to track failed drug and alcohol tests has knocked up to 60,000 commercial drivers out of the industry since it went online early last year.
McCormick says she has had to double the recruiting budget to get the same number of drivers. Other companies have also been raising drivers' pay—and passing the cost on to their customers. Oil Price Information Service analyst Tom Kloza warns that localized shortages of gas in popular vacation destinations could lead to hoarding and more shortages. Industry analysts say the most severe shortage of drivers is in the Midwest, Bulk Transporter reports. With the driver shortage expected to worsen significantly in the next few years, experts advise companies to look into alternative transportation methods—and to reach out to women, minorities, and veterans. The experts say new driver-assist technology should make the job less stressful and reduce the extremely high turnover rate. (Read more gas prices stories.)