​Diesel Fuel Shortage Hurting Truck Stops

Operators including TravelCenters of America and Pilot Co. are limiting the amount of gallons per purchase depending on location.

NATIONAL REPORT — In addition to soaring fuel prices, owners and operators of fleets now have a new shortage to contend with: diesel.

Outlets of major truck stop chains across the country have started limiting the number of gallons a hauler can purchase in a single transaction. For example, a TA Petro stop in Kingman, Ariz., posted a sign on its door stating, "Attention: Due to a national diesel shortage, only 60 gallons maximum!" reported Overdrive.

"That just blew my mind. I went through the fuel shortage of the 70s, and we didn't get hit like that directly," Tim Klaus, an owner and operator since 1984, told the news outlet, noting that because of the limitation, he witnessed trucks lined up "three and four deep, backing out onto the road" waiting at the truck stop's 16 pumps, while other truck stops in the area had fuel and no noted restrictions. "It's scary. The whole thing is getting out of hand."  

The Petro station confirmed high demand had hampered its ability to keep up.

"We cannot keep up with the drivers because they are pumping $800 or $900 of fuel here, so we have to close our site two three times a day," adding that the station was working to refill its reserves but couldn't be sure when that would happen. 

TravelCenters of America expanded on the matter:

"The fuel industry as a whole is experiencing shortages and TA is no exception. We are currently experiencing intermittent supply outages and may be limiting the amount of gallons per purchase, depending on location," the corporate spokesperson said. "TravelCenters of America has a dedicated team working closely with our suppliers and other partners, and we are bringing in product from other markets to maintain availability and to help minimize any potential disruptions."

Pilot Co. is also experiencing diesel shortages. Senior Vice President of Supply and Distribution Brad Jenkins told Overdrive that the company is struggling to keep diesel stocked at the pumps in some places.

"Like other fuel retailers, we are seeing limited capacity in some markets due to extremely tight diesel supply conditions, particularly in the Columbus, Ohio, market region," he said. "We are working to manage demand across our stores in the surrounding areas to maintain consistent diesel supply for our customers and guests. Currently, all of our travel centers are open, however select locations may experience temporary diesel outages until the supply situation improves."

The shortage coincides with a spike in diesel prices, which recently saw a seven-year high, although other possible causes are the decrease in production, a lack of fuel haulers, or that demand is outpacing supply.

"What I think is happening is that the price of fuel is so high in California — it's $4.65 [there] and it’s $3.65 in Arizona. If you buy 200 gallons, you’re talking a $200 difference," Klaus explained. "I think [drivers are] pumping Arizona dry to take advantage of that price differential."

Klaus, who books and prices his loads sometimes months in advance, said the rise in fuel prices has put him in uncomfortable situations with longtime customers. 

"I’m losing $300 to $400 on a coast-to-coast load due to fuel prices. I bid all these loads months in advance and now I'm going to have to cover my expenses," he said. "I'm not doing too bad. I raise them to what I think the fuel is going to go up, but I didn’t raise it high enough this time around."