With pipeline shutdown and truck driver shortage, could Kansas and Missouri see gas shortage?

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Many parts of the United States are seeing a gas shortage, and a recent pipeline shutdown is only making things worse. It has many wondering if gas could soon become sparse in Kansas and Missouri.

Torrence Ally said he’s been paying more at the pump recently.

“I try to stay on full because I keep looking at the gas price, and it keeps going up, so I just stay on full,” Ally said.

In some states like Tennessee, lines wrap around the gas stations due to shortages and panicked buyers.

Experts say it could be a result of a ransomware attack that shut down the Colonial Pipeline, the nation’s largest fuel pipeline. It delivers roughly 45% of fuel consumed on the East Coast, according to the company. The nation is also struggling with an ongoing shortage of tanker truck drivers.

Jeffrey Steinberg owns the APEX CDL Institute in Kansas City, Kansas.

“There’s always been a shortage of truck drivers in this country,” Steinberg said. “Our enrollment numbers are up; this is probably going to be one of the better years we’ve ever had. But, even then, it’s not even close to filling the void that’s needed.”

According to the National Tank Truck Carriers, upwards of one-quarter of trucks are sitting idle due to not having enough drivers. For context, that number was only 10% before the pandemic in 2019.

Economics expert Dr. Stephen Pruitt is a professor at UMKC’s Bloch School.

“It’s one of the oldest industries, and it turns out that the average truck driver is just about 50 years old,” Pruitt said. “Those people are retiring. A lot of them have, you know, were laid off during the pandemic and decided that, great time to retire, not come back.”

Pruitt said we always see more demand for gas in the summer months due to travel. He said although the driver shortage is an ongoing problem, he doesn’t expect the pipeline shutdown to impact Kansas and Missouri too badly. 

He said it’s possible we have resources being sent to the East Coast to help.

“I don’t think it’s we’re going to see gas prices up to $4.50 a gallon again like we did in 2008,” Pruitt said. “But I wouldn’t be surprised to see $3.50.”

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