We've survived through toilet paper, bicycle, and meat shortages over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the latest potential source of concern—gasoline—could have an impact on your summer plans. CNN reported yesterday that the concerns about shortage have nothing to do with gasoline supply—but everything to do with a shortage of qualified truck drivers to get the gas from the refineries to the stations.
The upshot? You could find gas stations running dry this summer. "Demand for truckers is very high, and with gasoline demand rebounding, it's been a challenge in some areas of the country where gasoline demand was especially brisk—like spring break destinations—for stations to stay ahead of the demand with fewer truckers," says Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy. "The issue this summer won't be the gasoline itself—refineries have ample capacity thus far—but with drivers who have hazmat certification who can move the gasoline."
This shortage could lead to gas station closures, which could impact your summer plans—just as more Americans are feeling more comfortable hitting the road for vacations. Here's what you need to know.
Gas prices are destined to go up, no matter what
It happens every summer—so don't be alarmed if gas prices (currently $2.89 per gallon) continue to spike. "Right around this time of year, we switch from producing winter gas to summer gas, which costs more to manufacture," says John Paul, senior manager of traffic safety and public affairs for AAA. "Gas prices start to go up in the summer, peak July 4th weekend, and come down after Labor Day, when travel starts to drop off."
Don't let your tank get too empty
You don't want to be skating by on fumes and discover that the nearest gas station is out of fuel—so be proactive when you're road-tripping this summer. "You never want to drive until you're almost out of gas," Paul says. "If there's a possibility of a shortage, start to look for a gas station when you're at a half or a quarter tank, in case you have to do a little searching for it."
Switch grades if you need to
Even if you're usually an 87 octane driver—or your car manufacturer recommends using premium—you may not be able to be fussy. "One regular tank of gas won't cause problems, even if you're supposed to use premium grade," Paul says.
Keep your gas apps handy
Gas finding apps like GasBuddy, the AAA app, or your car's computer can help direct you to the nearest open gas station—or help you find a gas bargain nearby.
Do not pack additional gasoline with you
It may seem like a good idea to stash a few gallons in a can in your trunk, just in case you run into trouble—but that could create a fire hazard, Paul says.
Be especially mindful if you're on the road July 4th weekend
AAA says that's the peak week for everyone to hit the road for vacation, so if there's a gas shortage, it's likely to happen during the first weeks of July. "That's a very traditional vacation time, so there could be shortages of gasoline then," Paul says.
Add a little extra to your budget
If gas prices continue to spike, you might see an extra dollar per gallon—which nets out to around $50 for a typical tank-and-a-half road trip. It's probably not a budget breaker for your vacation, but perhaps you'll need to adjust accordingly. "Traveling by car is an economical way to get around," Paul says. "If the price goes up, it's still probably not enough to cause you to cancel your trip."