Gov. Mark Gordon issued an executive order on Tuesday that allows the Wyoming Department of Transportation to deliver additional gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel through Aug. 20.
Record-breaking travel and tourism coupled with efforts to combat an early fire season are straining the state’s fuel reserves. But a shortage of available drivers has prevented the state from increasing its access to fuel.
“It is critical that we have adequate fuel supplies,” Gordon said in a statement. “This is particularly necessary for air support during this fire season. These emergency rules will help increase fuel deliveries without potentially harmful delays.”
Under normal circumstances, drivers are limited to 14-hour workdays, and can spend no more than 11 hours per day on the road, according to Lt. Dustin Ragon of the Wyoming Highway Patrol.
The order institutes temporary emergency rules that will boost fuel availability by pausing the restrictions on drivers’ hours. It specifies that in spite of the suspended time limits, drivers will still be bound by all other regulations, and will be prohibited from operating delivery vehicles while fatigued.
“In particular, the concern was ensuring that we had adequate aviation fuel for the Forest Service, for air support and those types of actions,” said Michael Pearlman, Gordon’s communications director. “And so part of the reason [Gordon] signed the executive order was really to make sure that it wasn’t a transportation hiccup that was preventing fuel from making it to its destination, where it was needed.”
With transportation no longer a limiting factor, maintenance problems at refineries would be the most likely cause of any additional fuel shortages, said WYDOT Director Luke Reiner.
Wyoming is already facing a shortage of aviation fuel — particularly the jet fuel used to power larger planes — that is impacting commercial and general aviation airports throughout the state.
Both Dubois Municipal Airport and Hot Springs County Airport ran out of jet fuel as a result of the shortage, severely hampering operations, said Brian Olsen, aeronautics administrator for WYDOT.
“As far as our commercial service airports, I believe that they all have a supply right now,” Olsen said. “It’s pretty tight.”
And though Wyoming has not experienced significant shortages of diesel or gasoline this summer, concerns about future scarcity prompted the governor to preemptively include those fuels in the order, Reiner said.
“The same issues that are affecting aviation fuel have the potential to negatively impact the supply of diesel and gasoline,” he said.
The emergency exemption resembles orders signed by Wyoming governors in past winters — including this February — suspending operating time restrictions to increase propane supplies during periods of extreme cold. Gordon also paused those regulations at the start of the pandemic to facilitate the delivery of essential supplies.
Other governors have instituted similar policies in response to fuel shortages, including South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on Saturday.