Tuesday 1st December 1942
The U.S. government imposed gasoline quotas to conserve fuel during the shortages of World War II. The armed forces overseas had fuel aplenty, but stateside, gasoline became costly and hard to get. People started using bicycles and their own two feet to get around. A report presented to President Franklin Roosevelt on Sept. 1, 1942, concluded that the United States was “a have-not nation” when it came to rubber. Meeting the military’s enormous needs would be nearly impossible if the civilians at home didn’t cut out nonessential driving to conserve on tire wear. The best way to achieve that was to make it more difficult for people to use their cars. And the best way to do that was to limit the amount of gasoline an individual could purchase. Congress proved to be obstinate even in the face of a national crisis, Congress balked at imposing rationing nationwide. They pushed for a delay at the very least, but FDR would have none of it. Backed by government procurement agencies and military leaders, the president ordered gasoline rationing to begin on Dec. 1 and to last “the duration.” Americans were presented with FDR’s fait accompli on Nov. 26, giving them less than a week to prepare.
To receive a gasoline ration card, a person had to certify a need for gasoline and ownership of no more than five tires. All tires in excess of five per driver were confiscated by the government, because of rubber shortages. An “A” sticker on a car was the lowest priority of gasoline rationing and entitled the car owner to 3 to 4 US gallons (11 to 15 l; 2.5 to 3.3 imp gal) of gasoline per week. B stickers were issued to workers in the military industry, entitling their holder up to 8 US gallons (30 l; 6.7 imp gal) of gasoline per week. C stickers were granted to persons deemed very essential to the war effort, such as doctors. T rations were made available for truckers. Lastly, X stickers on cars entitled the holder to unlimited supplies and were the highest priority in the system. Ministers, police, firemen, and civil defense workers were in this category. A scandal erupted when 200 Congressmen received these X stickers.
As a result of the gasoline rationing, all forms of automobile racing, including the Indianapolis 500, were banned. Sightseeing driving was also banned. In some regions breaking the gas rationing was so prevalent that night courts were set up to supplement the number of violators caught; the first gasoline-ration night court was created at Pittsburgh’s Fulton Building on May 26, 1943. All rationing ended in 1946.