With the resumption of deliveries through Colonial Pipeline, the USA is facing a new roadblock: There is a lack of truck drivers transporting gasoline to filling stations.
Drivers experiencing fuel shortages in parts of the east and south of the United States may take weeks for supplies to return to normal.
After Colonial Pipeline Co. resumed deliveries that were halted for almost a week by a cyberattack, the industry is facing a new logistics problem in addition to the lack of available fuel: Not enough truck drivers to get gasoline and diesel from the distribution centers transport retail stores.
As of Friday morning, about 87% of gas stations in Washington, DC were out of gas, 42% in Maryland, and 30% in Florida, according to retail tracker GasBuddy. While outages in North Carolina and South Carolina have decreased slightly, more than half of each state’s stations are still without gas.
“Too many stations require fuel, not enough rack capacity, not enough truck drivers,” said Patrick DeHaan, Head of Petroleum Analysis at GasBuddy, on Twitter. “Most of these defaulted states have continued to panic, which is likely contributing to the slow recovery so far. It will take a few weeks. “
Colonial Pipeline Co. paid Eastern European hackers nearly $ 5 million to stop a ransomware attack that closed the network of pipelines carrying gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel along the U.S. east coast. The outage, which occurred just weeks before the start of the summer driving season, left some retail stations in more than 10 states dry and caused the national average pump price to rise above $ 3 a gallon for the first time in six years.
One of North America’s largest distributors said the shortage would drag on due to the lack of tankers to transport supplies.
“It will likely take seven to ten days for the average consumer to really notice any noticeable improvement,” said Andy Milton, senior vice president of supply at Mansfield Energy Corp., whose closely-owned company handles more than 3 billion gallons of fuel annually in the United States USA and Canada.
Mansfield has brought trucks from Minnesota and Texas to areas affected by congestion. “The truck itself becomes the main problem,” said Milton.
Many truck drivers stopped hauling fuel during the pandemic when gasoline demand collapsed. Now companies are rushing to reinstate them. Last week, Pilot Corp. $ 5,000 for tankers to supply their stores, saying they could hire 200 people before the summer.
The deadly winter storm that crippled Texas in February, followed by Colonial’s shutdown, was a consecutive crisis for Mansfield’s network.
“I keep hoping there isn’t a hurricane around the corner,” said Milton. “That could make me change my career at this point.”
As of Thursday, the origin of the colonial system in the south was less than half that, according to people familiar with the matter. Fuel traders paid each other extra to gain access to the pipeline for the first time since the pandemic.
To ease the crisis, the Biden government granted companies such as Valero Energy Corp. two exemptions under the Jones Act that allow foreign tankers to ship fuel to the US east coast.
Since Colonial resumed operations, a French gasoline tanker that was diverted towards the US Atlantic coast has changed course back towards the Gulf Coast. On Thursday, a European tanker arrived in Savannah, Georgia en route to the Bahamas to unload diesel.