KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As more people hit the road this summer, some experts are bracing for a gas shortage.
But the reason behind it has nothing to do with the fuel itself.
The problem is that there aren’t enough truck drivers to deliver the cargo to gas stations.
According to reporting by CNN, the National Tank Truck Carriers, an industry trade group, estimates 20-25 percent of tank trucks in the fleet are parked because of a shortage of drivers.
“I’ve never seen it quite this bad,” Jeffrey Steinberg, director of education at the Kansas City, Kansas-based Apex CDL Institute, told 41 Action News Wednesday.
People in the industry say multiple factors have created the “perfect storm” for severe shortages.
First, there’s the issue of demand.
According to Brad Ball, president of Roadmaster Drivers School, the shift to e-commerce during the pandemic placed a heavy burden on the trucking industry.
“Not only was demand up, but the supply of drivers was severely tightened,” Ball said.
One reason, according to Steinberg and Ball, is that the existing pool of drivers is shrinking as many age out and decide to retire.
On top of that, the pandemic temporarily shuttered some driving schools, and class sizes are still limited for social distancing.
Ball said Roadmaster has a waiting list of students trying to get in classes, and the company is adding capacity by opening five new schools this year. Roadmaster has 15 locations, including one in Grandview.
Meanwhile, Apex CDL Institute’s classes are full until July. Steinberg said finding instructors has been a challenge, since he’s competing with trucking companies who are willing to pay top dollar for drivers.
According to Indeed.com, the average salary for a tanker truck driver is $73,000.
However, Steinberg said his students have broken into the 80s, 90s and even the six-figure range in their first years of driving.
“If you want to start a career in trucking, there’s no faster way to success because right now you can go to school for four weeks and come out with multiple job offers,” Ball added.
Roadmaster and Apex are both members of the Commercial Vehicle Training Association. Other member schools can be found here.
In addition, both Metropolitan Community College and Johnson County Community College have CDL programs.
It typically takes four weeks for a student to get a Class A CDL. Then, trucking companies provide additional training and onboarding for new hires.