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If there’s a gas shortage this summer, this is why

I’m from a truck-driving family. My dad worked in the fields harvesting crops for many years, but he was finally able to move up to driving a delivery truck and unloading groceries at every stop. For a time there were no mechanized palettes; it was all done by hand and by back — literally. I hadn’t come along yet while my dad was driving for an ice cream company. My sister tells me it could be ‘good eatin.’ Sometimes the company allowed the drivers to take home a big container as a perk.

When I was old enough to understand how my dad put food on our table, he’d been hired by a grocery chain that, thankfully, had invested in machines to help the drivers with unloading. It was an incredible improvement to his working life. There were no more ice cream surprises, but it was a tradeoff that was well worth it.

On occasion he drove what we called ‘doubles,’ meaning two trailers. I marveled at how easily he could maneuver a gigantic truck in and out of skinny driveways and rush-hour traffic. It was a point of pride. Sometimes my dad would take me with him to pick up his paycheck. All the gleaming trucks would be lined up in ‘the yard.’ It was a beautiful sight, a feast for a young girl’s eyes.

Even today, when I see a commercial driver make a turn I wouldn’t dare attempt, I think of my dad and how he could make it all look so simple.

I tell you this so you’ll understand why this CNN story caught my attention.

Millions of people stuck at home for more than a year are expected to hit the road for much-needed post-pandemic vacations this summer. Good luck finding gas.

Not that there’s a looming shortage of crude oil or gasoline. Rather, it’s the tanker truck drivers needed to deliver the gas to stations who are in short supply.

According to the National Tank Truck Carriers, the industry’s trade group, somewhere between 20% to 25% of tank trucks in the fleet are parked heading into this summer due to a paucity of qualified drivers. At this point in 2019, only 10% of trucks were sitting idle for that reason.

“We’ve been dealing with a driver shortage for a while, but the pandemic took that issue and metastasized it,” said Ryan Streblow, the executive vice president of the NTTC. “It certainly has grown exponentially.”

Most of us never think about how products make their way into our lives. We should, for transportation is vital to our economy. The next time you see a commercial truck, I hope you’ll look over at the driver and think of the family at home that takes pride in what they’re doing.
It isn’t easy. It requires skill. It demands patience. It’s a job looking for a person like my dad.

Donna Martinez / Senior Writer and Editor

Donna came to the John Locke Foundation in January 2003 after freelance writing for Carolina Journal and contributing to projects for the North Carolina Education Alliance. He...