Notebook: Fears Of A Dry Summer
Copyright © 2008 Paul Velgos

Notebook: Fears Of A Dry Summer

A truck driver shortage and predictions of empty fuel pumps this summer could have a profound impact on the cost associated with getting you rock salt and anti-icing materials.

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April 28, 2021

There's a report making the rounds about a shortage of truck drivers and a prediction of empty gas pumps this summer. In addition, this need for truck drivers has many business owners concerned about the costs associated with the transportation of goods, which presumably includes getting snow and ice management pros their rock salt and anti-icing supplies for Winter 2021-22.

The National Tank Truck Carriers, that industry’s trade association, is reporting that between 20% and 25% of tank trucks are sitting idle due to lack of drivers, according to a April 27 CNN story.

The COVID pandemic has only exasperated this issue, with many drivers furloughed during the economic shutdown not returning to their trucks due to finding employment elsewhere. This news, according to CNN's report, has many business owners concerned about the ripple effect of driver and gasoline shortages on product availability, deliver time and shipping price hikes.

Here are some additional related facts to note:

  • Gas prices jumped more than 9% in the past month and are not expected to reverse course anytime soon.
  • Fuel prices rose 22.5% from the previous year and were the biggest contributor to an overall price increase in goods and services in the nation, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Price Index. In addition, fuel prices pushed a 1-month increase in the overall price of goods for March, which was the highest in nearly 9 years.
  • Gas prices are expected to climb to a three-year high this summer. Prices at the pump will average $2.78 per gallon — up 34% from 2020 — in the next six months, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

I reached out to Rob English, president of Chemical Solutions Inc. and Snow Magazine's contributing editor on rock salt and anti-icing material issues, to see if he had any insights on how a gasoline and driver shortage could impact the professional snow and ice management industry this summer.  

Rob says the lack of drivers and the impact on transportation of goods is a very real issue and he's already seeing freight increases ranging from 30% to 200% to move products.

"To that point, we need to move a load of 50-pound bags from our New Jersey warehouse to our regular customer in upstate New York," he says. "Last year, we paid $1,400, and the year before that about $1,000. The lowest rate we've been quoted is $4,200.

"One of our carriers cautioned that they are booking three weeks out and that is quickly building past 3 weeks," he added.

Rob fears this trend will skyrocket as we get closer to the summer and there's no apparent end in sight. "Yes, this is a problem and will continue to be a problem until the economy comes back into balance where steady work for drivers will be on-going and the pay will attract them [back to the trucking industry]."

I'll be sure to update you on this this issue as I hear more. In the meantime, have you begun to see an uptick in the cost of goods related to snow and ice management? Have suppliers reached out to you about this issue or to address material price increases?