- The haulage industry says the UK is short of truck drivers due to COVID, an aging workforce and Brexit
- Britain’s government will issue 5,000 three-month visas for truck drivers starting in October
- Industry players say, however, that it is not enough to address the problem
Thousands of British petrol stations ran dry on Sunday (local time), as motorists scrambled to fill up amid a supply disruption due to a nationwide shortage of truck drivers.
BP said nearly a third of its British petrol stations had run out of the two main grades of fuel.
“With the intense demand seen over the past two days, we estimate that around 30 per cent of sites in this network do not currently have either of the main grades of fuel,” BP, which operates 1,200 sites in Britain, said in statement.
Lines of vehicles formed at petrol stations for a third day running as motorists waited, some for hours, to fill up with fuel after oil firms reported a lack of drivers was causing transport problems.
Some operators had to ration supplies and others closed petrol stations altogether.
The Petrol Retailers Association, which represents almost 5,500 independent outlets, said about two-thirds of its members were reporting that they had sold out their fuel, with the rest “partly dry and running out soon”.
Association chairman Brian Madderson said the shortages were the result of “panic buying, pure and simple”.
“There is plenty of fuel in this country, but it is in the wrong place for the motorists,” he told the BBC.
“It is still in the terminals and the refineries.”
Shell said it had also seen increased demand for fuel.
Tempers frayed as some drivers waited for hours.
Police were called to one London service station after a scuffle broke out. Police said a man was arrested on suspicion of assault.
Transport minister Grant Shapps had earlier appealed for calm, saying the shortages were purely caused by panic buying, and that the situation would eventually resolve itself because fuel could not be stockpiled.
“There’s plenty of fuel, there’s no shortage of the fuel within the country,” Mr Shapps told Sky News.
New visas for drivers ‘throwing a thimble of water on a bonfire’
The haulage industry says the UK is short tens of thousands of truckers, due to a perfect storm of factors including the coronavirus pandemic, an aging workforce and an exodus of foreign workers following Britain’s Brexit departure from the European Union last year.
Several countries, including the United States and Germany, also are experiencing a shortage of truck drivers.
But the problem has been especially visible in Britain, where it has contributed to empty supermarket shelves and shuttered gas pumps.
After weeks of mounting pressure, the UK’s Conservative government announced it will issue thousands of emergency visas to foreign truck drivers to help prevent a Christmas without turkey or toys for many British families.
The government said it would issue 5,000 three-month visas for truck drivers starting in October, and another 5,500 for poultry workers.
Industry groups welcomed the new visa plan, although the British Retail Consortium said it was “too little, too late”.
Ruby McGregor-Smith, president of the Confederation of British Industry, said the announcement was “the equivalent of throwing a thimble of water on a bonfire”.
Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, speaking at his party’s annual conference in southern England, said ministers had failed to plan for labour shortages following the 2016 Brexit vote and called for a bigger temporary visa scheme.
Extracted from ABC