PUNTA GORDA, Fla. — A gasoline shortage could be around the corner- not because more people are hitting the roads again, but because there aren't enough drivers to get it to the gas stations.
Right now, up to 25% of tank trucks fleet is parked and the industry is blaming it on a shortage of tanker truck drivers.
“It never really changed," says Glenn Osterberg, Range Manager at Suncoast Trucking Academy. "There’s been a long stand in driver shortage, partly because of the lifestyle of over-the-road truck drivers have to be gone for two or three weeks at a time.”
Glenn Osterberg is with Suncoast Trucking Academy in Punta Gorda. In year’s past, they have noticed a huge driver shortage across the industry. After last year, however, truck driving schools like his are staying busy.
“A lot of people are finding that this is a good industry to be in because, even during COVID, trucks still moved; we still had to move freight," said Osterberg.
Since January, Suncoast have seen a steady flow of drivers signing up for classes. In fact- according to Osterberg- they are already booking testing into June. Their course is what they call a 160-hour course.
“Spend forty hours your first week in the classroom going over basics and doing testing," Osterberg says. "Then you spend three weeks out here on our range in the trucks, learning your pre-trip, learning to do maneuvers, learning to drive the truck safely and then from there you do a final test.”
Qualification to become a tank driver is even more enduring. After a new law went into affect last year, about 40 to 60,000 drivers in a national employment pool were disqualified because they had prior drug or alcohol violations. And candidates have to earn more than a permit.
“You do general knowledge, you do air brakes, and the third test is combination vehicle- and that’s what these vehicles are that you see here," Osterberg said. "And then if you were going to haul gasoline, you’d have to get two more endorsements- a tanker endorsement and a hazardous materials endorsement.”
But no matter the haul, it all starts with a single step.
Says Osterberg, “Our admissions team would point them in the direction to go to motor vehicles to get their permits, go get a DOT medical card or a federal physical exam, and then talk to us about enrolling in one of our courses.”
You can find more information about Suncoast's trucking academy, as well as how to enroll, by visiting them online right here.