Higher gas prices, possible spot shortages expected as summer travel season approaches

Drivers can expect gas prices to rise this summer along with increasing demand, but experts in the travel and trucking industries said there is no need to panic about some reports of gasoline shortages.

“We have seen a few gas stations in a small number of markets that have experienced a day or two of low to no gas at the pumps. At markets where that’s happened it is not market wide, but just a few stations at the brand,” said Cindy Antrican, manager of public and government affairs at AAA-Miami Valley.

A shortage of tanker truck drivers has created delivery issues in a few places, she said.

“There is not a shortage of gas. There is ample gas supply in the U.S.,” Antrican said. “This is more about the logistics. There is an issue with getting the gas delivered.”

As demand increases gas stations are adjusting delivery schedules, said Jeanette McGee, national AAA spokeswoman, in a May 3 news release.

“However, deliveries may be delayed in a small number of markets this summer causing select stations to see low to no fuel at some pumps for short periods, one or two days,” McGee said. “With road trips expected to be popular this summer, some summer travel destinations, like beaches or mountains, may see some pumps affected.”

But drivers should be able to find gas at other nearby stations, she said.

Credit: Alexis Larsen

Credit: Alexis Larsen

The boost in travel will fuel price increases, McGee said.

“While April saw minimal (price) fluctuation, May is likely to see much larger increases alongside demand spikes, especially closer to Memorial Day weekend,” McGee said. “Compared to May 2019, U.S. gasoline demand is down only 4% and gas prices are on average just two cents more.”

In the local area on Friday, the average price of regular unleaded gas was $2.698 per gallon, up from $1.756 a year ago, according to AAA’s daily gas price tracker.

Diesel fuel is also higher than a year ago, rising to $3.015 on Friday from $2.496 per gallon a year ago.

Ohioans on average are paying a little less than drivers nationally for regular unleaded gas. The national average on Friday was $2.954 per gallon, compared to $2.824, according to the price tracker.

All of these prices are far less than than their highest recorded average cost. Regular unleaded reached $4.17 per gallon on May 4, 2011, and diesel topped out at $4.752 on July 18, 2008, according to AAA.

After a year of light travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic, motorists are already hitting the road and summer will bring booming travel business now that vaccinations are becoming more common and COVID-19 cases declining, Antrican said.

“Road trips are going to be king this year. People feel more comfortable because they have control of their environment,” she said. “As people get vaccinated and they’re feeling more and more confident and comfortable, people are planning big trips.”



Gasoline hauling fleets laid off drivers last year as gasoline consumption plummeted but those fleets are now ramping up, said Bob Costello, chief economist of the American Truck Associations.

The shortage of tanker truck drivers is part of a wider problem the trucking industry is having filling jobs, he said.

Drivers of gasoline tanker trucks need extra training and hazmat certification, Costello said, but the jobs are more in demand because they pay well and drivers typically get to go home every night.

Also truck driving schools that closed during the pandemic are now reopening, which should ease the strain on the industry, which was short 61,000 drivers in 2019, a figure Costello said has certainly increased since then.

Costello said spot gas shortages also may be related to the annual shift from winter blends to summer blends of gasoline.

“That is something that we see every year,” Costello said. “I don’t think there’s going to be any significant shortages of gasoline. People should not worry about it.”

Antrican agrees that fears of a gasoline shortage are overblown.

“The pandemic has been so hard on everyone. I don’t think this shortage rises to the level of panic because I don’t think we are there,” Antrican said. “It’s just like when the pandemic began, we saw issues at the grocery store.”

She suggests that people simply make sure they refill their tanks before they get too low so if they find a station that has run out of gas, it does not become an emergency for them.

“As a rule of thumb in general, AAA recommends that motorists consider filling up when their fuel level hits a quarter of a tank,” McGee said.

Fuel saving tips
Minimize your use of air conditioning, including by opening windows, which has less impact on fuel economy.
Combine errands into one trip and avoid traveling during high-traffic periods.
Drive a fuel-efficient car.
Park in the shade to reduce heat buildup inside the car.
Remove unneeded items from the car to reduce weight and increase fuel economy.
Minimize use of roof racks and remove bike racks and special carriers when not in use as they reduce fuel economy.
Source: AAA

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