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Colonial Pipeline gas concerns in Virginia highlight importance of truck drivers amid nationwide shortage for industry

"They're having to go farther to get the fuel to deliver it to the retail locations in Virginia."

WASHINGTON — Truck drivers in Virginia are being stressed even further and having to make longer hauls amid the Colonial Pipeline gas shortage that has highlighted the growing truck driver shortage that parallels it.

The truck driver shortage has been a concern amid gas being needed to be transported further distances after the Colonial Pipeline hack has sent people the gas pumps in droves.

According to the Virginia Truckers Association, Virginia's tanker drivers are having to go all the way to Greensboro, North Carolina, to one of the main terminals on the pipeline that is still producing gas. Other areas on the pipeline closer to and within Virginia are not seeing outputs needed to supply the region. 

The commonwealth has been hit particularly hard by the ongoing gas shortage concerns, following a cyberattack over the weekend on the Colonial Pipeline. Nearly 52% of Virginia's gas stations are out of gas, according to GasBuddy.

"They're having to go farther to get the fuel to deliver it to the retail locations in Virginia, because with the pipeline limited, some of the spurs of the pipeline that go to Virginia locations, are not up and running," said Virginia Trucking Association president Dale Bennett "They're having to go to other points of distribution to pick up the fuel and bring it back to Virginia. So they're all working very, very hard to fulfill this need and make sure that people in Virginia can have the gas if we can survive the hoarding that's going on, to maintain the supply.

Credit: AP
Tanker trucks are parked near the entrance of Colonial Pipeline Company Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. Several gas stations in the Southeast reported running out of fuel, primarily because of what analysts say is unwarranted panic-buying among drivers, as the shutdown of a major pipeline by hackers entered its fifth day. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

The tanker truck driver shortage is not something new but an ongoing issue that has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and has become an even more alarming issue due to this recent gas shortage. 

"Nationally, the industry was already experiencing a shortage of drivers even before the pandemic hit. And now this latest situation, the estimates are that right now, we're short about 60,000 drivers a year, it is projected that over the next decade, we'll need 1.1 million drivers. So that means we've got to hire 110,000 drivers to meet what we project to be the demand for freight delivery. In this particular situation," said Bennett. 

According to Bennett, a big issue with the truck driver shortage in America is that gas tanker drivers need to have certain certifications and endorsements to carry hazardous materials. This alone requires background checks and further experience that can make it harder to hire drivers amid a shortage.

As of now, the shortage of gas to parts of the region and its impact by a truck driver shortage may be lessened with the fact the Colonial Pipeline has been fixed, according to officials. 

But if the pipeline has more issues or breakdowns, the truck driver shortage may become a bigger problem after a week or so.

"We're all very, very hopeful that the pipeline is up and running by the end of the week," said ----. "I think if that happens, we're not going to have you know, the situation like we currently have, you know, if it goes beyond that, yes, is dicey and is changing."

Multiple states, including Maryland and Virginia, have lessened gas transportation restrictions to help get more supply to the region. Virginia's Gov. Ralph Northam has declared a state of emergency while Maryland's Gov. Larry Hogan has approved emergency waivers that decrease restrictions.

Bennett says that allows drivers to be more efficient with their time on the road and make fewer regulatory stops that are required by law in a lot of states. But had added that regulators and companies managing these drivers will still need to be vigilant in making sure the drivers are getting enough rest and sleep so they can haul longer trips. 

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