Florida motorists are already beginning to find gas stations without fuel. As drivers line up at gas stations to top off their tanks, it can be challenging for retailers to keep up with the surging demand.
“Gas stations can only hold so much fuel at a time. As hurricanes approach, retailers run out of gasoline, like stores run out of water,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “However, work will continue as long as it is safe, to resupply those tanks. Although there is still plenty of gasoline in the state, the challenge is getting it from the terminals to the pump. Florida will continue receiving shipments of gasoline, as long as the ports remain open. Drivers of fuel tankers will continue making deliveries until it is no longer safe to do so.”
Getting Gas to the Pumps
Here’s an explanation of how gasoline is delivered to your local store. The majority of Florida’s gasoline supply is delivered via waterborne ships from refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. The primary fuel delivery points are the ports in Jacksonville, South Florida (Port Everglades), and Tampa. Once delivered to the port, tanker trucks line up at the port’s terminals to be filled with fuel, and then drive to your local convenience store. This process continues until the port shuts down due to tropical storm force winds, and road conditions have deteriorated. Even after the ports close to ships, tanker trucks can continue picking up fuel until the port fully closes to all staff.
As long as Florida’s ports remain open, gasoline deliveries will continue. How long it takes for each gas station to be refilled can vary.
In order to help keep Florida gas tanks full, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has done the following:
- Asked port terminals to remain open as long as possible so trucks can drive in and pickup gasoline.
- Waived weight restrictions on tanker trucks – increasing the legal capacity of what each truck can carry, from 8,000 to 9,000 gallons of fuel.
- Waived “hours of service” limitations for drivers – increasing their maximum allotted time behind the wheel from 8-14 hours, so deliveries can continue to be made.
Gas Outages Along Evacuation Routes
Hurricane Irma caused the largest evacuation in Florida history. As a result, it became challenging to keep gas stations – especially those located along evacuation routes – supplied with fuel. Tanker trucks also had difficulty navigating the busy highways.
The Florida Governor responded by providing law enforcement escorts to assist tanker trucks in getting around the congestion to make fuel deliveries. No such order has been given yet for this storm, but state officials say it’s possible.
How Much Gasoline Does Each Station Hold?
Gas stations are not connected to pipelines. Their supply is delivered by a truck and stored in underground tanks. Gas stations can hold anywhere from 12,000–24,000 gallons of each 87 and 91 octanes per station, not per pump. That is enough to fill 800–2,000 vehicles if each one had an average 15-gallon tank.
Are Retailers Charging Too Much?
Now that Florida is under a State of Emergency, retailers are not allowed to raise rates significantly higher than anything they charged in the past month. If they do, the retailer would have to show proof that their price to obtain the fuel increased – whether by higher oil prices, wholesale prices, transportation costs, etc.
During the past 30 days, Florida gas prices have averaged $2.45 per gallon for regular unleaded. To report suspected price gouging, call the Price Gouging Hotline at 1-866-966-7226 or visit the Florida Attorney General’s website.
After the Storm
- There will be an immediate focus on refueling gas stations following the storm.
- Once the storm passes, the Coast Guard inspects the port for damage before reopening it to inbound ships. There are often gasoline tankers waiting offshore to immediately begin making deliveries.
- The port’s loading racks must also be inspected for pipe and electrical damage before tanker trucks can begin loading up.
- If the port sustains significant damage, gasoline deliveries can be supplemented by other regions.
- Some gas stations may remain closed in the short term for reasons such as no staffing, no gasoline, no electricity. If a gas station does not have electricity, the pumps will not work.
The Auto Club Group (ACG) is the second-largest AAA club in North America. Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel, and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad, and Android. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile. Visit AAA on the Internet at AAA.com.