Effects of Colonial Pipeline shutdown highlight truck driver shortage
BATON ROUGE - While other states across the Southeast and East Coast face long lines for gasoline, Louisiana's outages remain sporadic and, up to this point, manageable. However, last week's hack that crippled the pipeline, which transports 100 million gallons of gasoline and other fuel each day, is highlighting a larger problem that has hit Louisiana.
"You're going to have a supply chain issue with that, on top of the fact that we have a tank truck driver issue, on top of the fact that we have a truck driver shortage," Renee Amar, executive director of the Louisiana Motor Transport Association said. "It's a major issue, and going to be a major issue, even going forward, after they get the Colonial Pipeline fixed."
A shortage of tank truck drivers, dating back to the earliest days of the pandemic, when roads were far emptier and drivers weren't demanding so much gas, is now putting a strain on those still behind the wheel.
"Those tank truck drivers had to go find jobs somewhere else," Amar said.
The pandemic-fueled run on tank truck drivers comes on top of what industry experts say is a years-long decline in the overall number of CDL-licensed drivers.
"It is a population that, in general, is aging out," Amar said. "It's been really hard to recruit those drivers."
With pipeline hack now putting a squeeze on fuel in addition to a lack of drivers, it's proving to be the perfect storm.
"You're going to have truckers that will need to go further distances to pick up the gas that is needed," Amar said.
Drivers still on the job are now able to work longer hours to pick up and deliver fuel while the pipeline is down after the feds waived an hours of service requirement. But even once the pipeline is back up and running, Amar says this problem will persist, especially as more cars take to the road this summer, which will translate to heftier prices at the pump.
"If we're seeing this already in the month of May, I think we're just at the beginning of it," Amar said.