These 3 Things Might Ruin Your Summer Road Trip Plans This Year

Summertime is coming in hot, and that means beach trips, lake trips, camping, fishing, and all other manners of fun outdoor activities. The one thing these activities have in common for most of us is driving. The summer road trip is one of the most American things on earth, and while we are stoked, three things that might hinder your summer road trip plans. 

A yellow Volkswagen bus travels along a country road that cuts through a prairie covered in dry grass, low rolling hills can be seen in the background on a summer road trip
A yellow Volkswagen bus travels along a country road | Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

How to prepare for the summer road trips in 2021

As more folks get the vaccine and spirits lift after a long, dark Covid winter, many people are planning big trips this summer. However, vaccine hesitancy and straggling anxieties will probably push plenty of people on the road again. 

A white SUV on a road trip drives toward Monument Valley on the Utah-Arizona border in the American Southwest
long road trip | Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Last summer had its specific challenges for road trippers, but as summer road trips come together this year, there are some things to be aware of that might derail the summer fun if you’re not careful. 

The chip shortage might delay your new summer road trip ride

According to MotorTrend, this extended semiconductor chip shortage is still raging and is only tangentially connected to the pandemic. As we were all stuck at home, the demand for these little chips went through the roof. 

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Video games, TVs, phones, and even cars all use the same little chips that we all wanted. That surge in demand, along with the factories taking time off for Covid, led to a logjam that remains to be uncleared. 

This chip shortage has slammed new car and truck production in a big way. At this point, many of the highly anticipated new car models are severely delayed. So if you are planning to buy a new ride for your summer road trip, prepare to have a few backup car selections. 

We might see a summer gas shortage 

If the chip shortage weren’t bad enough, reports surfaced saying that we are headed for a gas shortage come summer. The National Tank Truck Carriers warn that a limited supply of trained tanker drivers will likely limit how often gas stations will receive their fuel deliveries. 

A tanker truck delivers gasoline to a gas station | Tim Boyle/Getty Images
A tanker truck delivers gasoline to a gas station | Tim Boyle/Getty Images

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It was a confluence of things that led to this driver shortage; Covid forced many driver schools to close. The aging workforce led to more drivers retiring during Covid, not to mention the added certifications making it harder for new drivers to be eligible for jobs.

This isn’t a purely Covid thing, but the pandemic definitely added gas to an already burning fire (oh, no, he didn’t.) 

Driving is hard to do without tires

Amongst the other shortages, there is now the threat of a looming rubber shortage. As MT notes, there is not currently a tire shortage, but there may be soon.

Although synthetic rubber substitutes are being used more often, natural rubber is still a widespread ingredient in tire manufacturing. The natural rubber has special properties that give tires more resilience on wear like cracking and tearing. 

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The problem is that when prices for rubber spike, the deforestation necessary to grow more rubber trees also spikes. However, prices are pretty low right now, which means there is less incentive for growers to harvest more trees, leading to a gap in tire manufacturing. 

Aside from the human element, a tree-borne disease is currently hurting rubber tree forests in South America, furthering this race toward a possible tire shortage. Bloomberg reports that if the rubber demand increases, we may see a similar situation to the semiconductor chip shortage. 

Plan accordingly for any summer plans

The best way to keep your summer road trip plans alive and unencumbered is to plan to get your car situated sooner rather than later. This means if you are close to needing tires, buy them. If you need a new car, work out some backup plans to reserve your car in advance before prices get even higher. 

Failing to plan is a plan to fail, dear reader.