LAKEWOOD, Colorado – In an era when driving is becoming more common, a shortage of truck drivers is causing problems at some Colorado gas stations.
Over the past two weeks, Nathaniel Mulhauser has spent more time refusing people than he used to.
“Premium, unleaded, whatever octane you need – we’re out of it all,” said Mulhauser, store clerk at Circle K on Kipling Street in Lakewood.
On Friday outside the store, gas pumps were packed and signs were posted that read “out of gas and diesel … waiting patiently, sorry for any inconvenience.”
” I saw them [drivers] ride up. They watch the pumps and sometimes they walk away. Other times they will come and ask to be sure, ”he said.
Friday is not the first time that its station has gone without fuel for customers; last week, people were also turned away.
“We had six days where we had only diesel. We had no unleaded and we had no premium,” Mulhauser said.
The gas stations scattered around the Denver subway aren’t the only ones running empty. Fuel outages have been reported at Canon City and Pueblo stations.
“My manager told me it was all because there weren’t enough truck drivers to deliver gasoline to all the service stations that needed it,” Mulhauser said.
Industry experts say a labor shortage in the trucking industry has contributed to supply chain problems.
“The truck driver shortage has been going on for several years,” said Harold Trent, director of the United States Truck Driving School Incorporated. “A lot of that is because the baby boomer drivers who are out there in their late 60s and 70s are starting to come out and retire.”
Trent said he believed another factor contributing to the shortage was the COVID-19 pandemic.
Skyler McKinley of AAA Colorado said the decline in travel throughout 2020 has lowered demand for gasoline. Some truckers were made redundant while others gave up trucking altogether to pursue jobs in different industries.
“They’ve moved on to other positions where they get a little more pay, a little more time at home, a little more benefits,” Trent said.
There are also other obstacles. To ship fuel, candidate truck drivers must have a hazardous materials label on their license.
“A lot of potential drivers just aren’t interested in hauling dangerous goods because of the danger and the nature of the job,” Trent said. “Or some candidates are not of quality. There are a lot of things that can take a potential candidate out of the dangerous section of the CDL. [Commercial Driver License] regarding things that are on their criminal record. “
Jack Buffington, a professor at the University of Denver and an expert on supply chain topics, said there are solutions to the labor shortage.
“There are different marketing segments that trucking companies need to attract – women and people of color – because this is a largely male-dominated industry,” he said.
Buffington pointed out that finding more workers with different demographics will take time.
“The industry continues to try to market to attract military people, trades people, high school people, but it’s a tough situation. It’s not something that can happen. overnight, and I would say probably the next five years is really the key to solving the problem, ”Buffington said.
Buffington and Trent agreed they don’t believe wages contribute to industry deficits.
“The wages are there. The starting salary for a truck driver can go up to $ 90,000, and if you have experience it can be over $ 100,000, so it’s a really good job. good profession for people, but it takes a license, it takes skill, it takes a lifestyle that not everyone wants to embrace, ”said Buffington.
“The money has always been there,” Trent said.
Trent said that even with the current challenges, the USTDS enrollment numbers leave him optimistic.
“We currently have four girls in our class, and we’ve seen an average of about six per month for applicants,” he said.