Driver shortage could leave gas pumps without fuel this summer

PITTSBURGH — Planning to hit the road for your summer vacation?

Gas stations across the country could run out of gas this summer, but not because of a shortage of crude oil or gasoline.

According to the National Tank Truck Carriers, up to 25% of tank trucks are parked leading into summer because of a lack of qualified drivers.

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Dwayne Sergent has been in the trucking industry for 30 years, and he also trains drivers at Keystone Diesel in Butler. He said there’s an inordinate amount of carriers looking for drivers right now. The trucking industry has been dealing with a shortage of drivers for the past 5 years.

When the pandemic hit, the demand for gas fell, and many drivers left the industry. Driving schools like Keystone Diesel also were shut down. That halted the pipeline of new drivers, making the shortage even worse.

Now that demand for gas is back up and is expected to continue growing as we head into the summer travel months, the industry is scrambling to figure out how to get the supply to gas stations and other customers.

“On average, we’ll probably get at least two calls a day saying, ‘hey, we’re looking for drivers.’ I laugh and joke about it, and say if I had a vending machine and could produce them, boy, we’d be retired by then,” said Dwayne Sergent, acting director at Keystone Diesel.

“They’ll hire 40 to 50 guys today if you could get them. They’re turning away customers because of drivers, not the availability of freight,” said Jesse Stolz, school director and owner of Keystone Diesel.

Commercial driver training at Keystone has been up and down. For a period of six months, training classes were completely booked for three months. That’s no longer the case.