Professional Truck Driver Shortage May Worsen Pipeline Fuel Crisis

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A recent cyberattack forced the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline, a major source of fuel for the U.S. East Coast. The sudden, sharp reduction of supply is already driving up fuel prices and the ongoing professional truck driver shortage can’t keep up with the simultaneous fuel scarcity and burgeoning demand. Roadmaster Drivers School has been opening new professional driver training facilities in some of the hardest-hit areas, helping to fill the demand for professional drivers.

Due to the cyberattack of the Colonial Pipeline and the sudden reduction of supply, fuel prices are rising. To worsen matters, the professional truck driver shortage can’t meet demand.

As more people become vaccinated and want to resume travel plans this summer, ... the demand for gas is expected to grow exponentially this summer. The lack of drivers to transport that additional fuel will very likely drive up prices at the pump.

About 45% of all fuel supplied to the U.S East Coast has been suspended—and the most current estimates are that supply won’t be back to normal until Memorial Day Weekend.(1) To make up for the shortfall, numerous states will have to rely on alternative suppliers, including professional truck drivers to transport fuel. However, this sudden increase in demand for new suppliers is only being exacerbated by the ongoing shortage of professional truck drivers, especially those with hazmat and tanker qualifications. Brad Ball, president of Roadmaster Drivers School, has been working to alleviate the years-long growing gap between retirements and new driver recruiting and training.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics there was a shortfall of 65,700 drivers for 2020, when compared to 2019.(2) COVID-19 brought on a surge of early retirements for many of these drivers, and the trucking industry is struggling to make up for the shortfall. National tank truck carriers estimate 25% of industry vehicles could sit idle this summer because there aren't enough drivers.(3) This situation may lead to gas shortages in numerous eastern states.

A Worsening Scenario

The global pandemic further accelerated the driver shortage. "A lot of drivers were retiring early during COVID that were originally planning to retire in the next few years; additionally, schools were training less drivers due to social distancing” says Ball. “So suddenly the supply shrunk, while demand grew.” As more people become vaccinated and want to resume travel plans this summer, and with the mask mandate recently lifted, the demand for gas is expected to grow exponentially this summer. The lack of drivers to transport that additional fuel will very likely drive up prices at the pump.

New Career Opportunities

“The motor freight industry,” says Ball, “is vital to the United States economy, and absolutely dependent on a steady supply of new and well-trained drivers. The industry is not looking for degrees. They’re looking for people with good sense, dependability, and the desire for a stable, well-paying job.”

Roadmaster has opened more than 15 professional driver schools around the nation, with plans to open more locations by year-end. As higher education isn’t a requirement, this opens opportunities for those who are unemployed or underemployed or those wanting to change careers. The training itself is relatively brief, about four weeks from beginning to end. Ball notes that the demand for new drivers is such that students receive pre-hire letters before starting school and trucking firms offer up to 100% tuition reimbursement.

And now, companies are beginning to make even more lucrative job offers to attract drivers, especially those rated to carry fuel. Experts say experienced tanker drivers can earn more than $100k annually.

“As one of the top national truck driving schools,” says Ball, “we see this happening in real time…across the country. All carriers are clamoring for drivers and Roadmaster is getting calls daily from companies attempting to hire graduates.”

About Roadmaster Drivers School
Roadmaster, headquartered in St. Petersburg, FL, is a nationwide training organization for truckers. They have nearly 30 years of experience training more than 150,000 graduates with 15 training locations nationwide. By focusing on giving students the best education and maintaining high job placement standards, Roadmaster has gained a national reputation in the trucking industry for quality training of entry-level commercial truck drivers—noted for their training practices to be some of the best hands-on and safety-focused training in the country. Roadmaster’s newest facility is at 1500 W. Highland Drive in Jackson, Mississippi. For more information, visit http://www.roadmaster.com. 

1.    Aspegren, Elinor and James, Michael. “Colonial Pipeline Shutdown: Expect Gas Shortages to Go Away By Memorial Day, Experts Say” USA Today, 13 May 2021, usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2021/05/12/colonial-pipeline-hack-shutdown-gas-outages-refuel/5065013001/.
2.    Cassidy, William B. “Outlook 2021: Latest US Driver Shortage Requires Long-Term Solutions,” Journal of Commerce, January 20, 2021, joc.com/trucking-logistics/labor/outlook-2021-latest-us-driver-shortage-requires-long-term-solutions_20210120.html.
3.    Natario, Nick. “Truck driver shortage leads to job opportunities in a matter of weeks.” ABC 13 Eyewitness News, 10 May 2021, abc13.com/tanker-truck-shortage-alvin-community-college-where-to-get-driving-license-gas-prices-houston/10610033/.

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Karla Jo Helms

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