Toilet paper shortages? That's so 2020. This year, sources have been warning about an issue that chills the blood quickly: not enough fuel at gas stations.
"It's been a bit of a perfect storm," Jeanette McGee, spokesperson for the American Automobile Association (AAA) told me. "When the pandemic hit, demand [for gasoline] fell drastically. So there were less deliveries, and a number of drivers took work in other industries. Plus a lot of them retired. It’s created this shortage of drivers, which isn’t easy to fill, because the requirements for getting the specialized license for these types of trucks are stringent. And with that there have been issues with getting gas to the pumps."
According to AAA, the issue led to shortages in Las Vegas and Northern Arkansas in April.
So do we need to cancel our summer road trip plans?
McGee chuckled when I asked her that, and said that the shortages won't overwhelm the supply chain.
So far, driver shortage has affected just a few gas stations per area, usually all members of the same chain. These stations ran out of gas for two or three days, but in all cases, nearby stations were still able to service customers. This summer shouldn't be worse, says McGee, which means if you encounter a dry set of pumps at one station, it should be possible to fuel up at a rival station nearby.
"Where we anticipate this happening will be popular tourist destinations: Vegas, beaches, mountain towns, and markets where there's been an increased demand because of the influx of travelers," she says.
To avoid any potential problems, she recommends always fueling up when you hit a quarter of a tank of gas, and doing so, when possible, on the way to the major tourist destinations rather than at that destination.
"If you're on the highway and you realize you're running low, use the AAA app to find a nearby gas station, and then call them to make sure they have fuel," she advises. "If you can fill up outside of tourist spots, you shouldn't encounter any problems. And you'll probably find cheaper gas that way, too."
One thing people must never do is to carry extra gas with them—that's a major fire hazard.
Instead, treat your car to a pre–road trip tune-up to get the best gas mileage possible. For more on that, read our recently updated article on the many ways to save money on gas.