Right now the outages are scattered across the country, said Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis for the Oil Price Information Service, which tracks prices for AAA. He said there have been outages reported in the Pacific Northwest, Northern California, Colorado and Iowa. There are also outages reported in Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio, said Patrick DeHaan, spokesperson for GasBuddy.
“It used to be an afterthought for station owners to schedule truck deliveries. Now it’s job No. 1,” Kloza said. “What I’m worried about for July is the increased demand works out to about 2,500 to 3,000 more deliveries needed every day. There just aren’t the drivers to do that.”
Current US gasoline demand is virtually the same as it was in the same period of 2019, according to the US Energy Information Administration. But overall demand is up 16% from the end of last year, the last time there were this many travelers on the road during a holiday season.
AAA forecasts that 43.6 million Americans will travel by car this Fourth of July weekend, the most so far this year. And given the pent-up desire for summer getaways, Kloza said it’s possible that demand for gas could top the records that were in the late summer of 2019.
The pandemic prompted some tank truck drivers to retire, and others to shift to other trucking jobs that were in greater demand last year when gasoline demand fell so sharply.
DeHaan said the current station outages are not as concentrated as they were following the Colonial Pipeline hack. That makes it virtually impossible to get an accurate count on how many stations are running out of gas — but the number is growing.
“It’s hard to predict where the challenges are,” he said. “It’s just randomized pockets in cities both small and large.”
DeHaan expects the problem will grow over the next four to six weeks.
“I don’t think demand has reached a peak yet,” he said.