By Rachel Wulff

WEST SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Gas prices are on the rise due to a pinch at the pump and, despite the pandemic, diesel fuel drivers are delivering, but the number of them on the open road is down.

“I know the industry overall is dramatically short of the driver,” said Mike Nord.

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Nord runs Western Truck School in West Sacramento. He said he’ seen a dramatic shift in the number of people going into the industry since the pandemic hit.

“Because they’re being paid by the government and it’s taking away the incentive to go to work and even go to school,” said Nord.

He says two DMV shutdowns due to COVID-19 caused backlogs.

“We were not able to take our students over to have them test to get their CDL,” he said.

And physical distancing protocols impacted the number of students he could take on at one time.

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“We’ve had to schedule our training out farther, because of the number of people allowed inside the truck.”

It’s adding on to the time it takes to get certified by a couple of months, decreasing the number of diesel fuel drivers, which in turn is impacting truck drivers like Aaron Turner’s bottom line.

“Gas prices are outrageous,” said Turner. “We put in $400 where two months ago it was $300, so $100 extra twice a week 8 times a month adds up.”

Turner says the cost of fuel will trickle down to consumers as we head into summer.

For now, Nord is working on a backlog of students who want to get trained and tested. He hopes access to vaccines will mean restrictions continue to be eased.

“That will allow us to get more students trained because we can have them working together where we can’t do that right now,” he said.

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According to the Department of Labor, 1.7 million people work as tractor-trailer operators. California has the second-highest number with 130,000. Texas is first with 172,000.