Why Are So Many Major Roller Coasters Breaking Down in 2021?

Coaster Round Up

Six Flags Great Adventure El Toro Wooden Roller Coaster Entrance Sign

2021 had been a strange year for amusement parks. It has largely seen them able to fully reopen for the first time since early 2020, lifting pandemic era restrictions and opening long-delayed rides to the public for the first time. But as the year continued, something bad started to happen. An increasing collection of major roller coasters began breaking down at parks around the United States.

The list of impacted coasters is continually growing. From Gatekeeper at Cedar Point, to El Toro at Six Flags Great Adventure, to Skyrush at Hersheypark and more, coasters are not having a good year.

So what is happening? I'm going to discuss a few theories as to what is happening causing all of these issues.

Before I continue I just want to say that you should not be worried about visiting parks this year. These incidents in general have really not caused any injury to guests even with how bad some of them have looked in photos.

So the first major theory I have is that parks are still struggling with supply chain issues resulting from the pandemic. There is no doubt that the past year caused a lot of shipping issues, and with how custom made and individual most roller coaster parts are it certainly is easy to see how this could be a problem, causing parks to be short on spare parts.

The next theory is one I have seen thrown around on the internet a lot and it is that parks are cutting their maintenance budgets. I do not think this one is true at all. I think we could maybe say this if only one chain was being impacted by these issues, but we have seen practically every major chain impacted by one issue or another, and I don't think every chain cut their maintenance budgets. Parts issues on the other hand are a universal issue that would affect every park equally.

The last theory I think is worth mentioning would be issues related to staffing. Amusement parks, like many businesses relying on low paying jobs throughout the country, have been seeing staffing shortages, especially early on in the season, although many are starting to move past these early issues. With fewer people working the rides it could cause issues. But most parks have fixed these early issues to at least some degree through various methods, and since most of the ride issues have happened later in the season this might not be the best explanation.

Honestly, this could all just be an unfortunate coincidence, but with so many issues in such a short time span, it is worth looking to see if there are any common causes, especially if it continues through the rest of the summer.