Long queues of vehicles reached gas stations in Britain on Saturday, where a severe shortage of truck drivers led to fuel rationing and some pumps dried up, prompting the government to consider issuing temporary work visas.
Motorists across the country waited in long lines to fill their vehicles. A large distributor said it was selling rations and several operators said they had to close some premises, creating panic.
Government ministers and oil companies say there is sufficient stock of petrol or diesel and there is no cause for concern, but the lack of truck drivers is hampering the transportation of fuel from refineries to gas stations.
With retailers warning of a significant disruption in their supplies for Christmas, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office has said it is considering a short-term fix to address the shortage of heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers .
A spokesman for Johnson’s Downing Street office said in a statement: “We are looking at temporary measures to avoid any immediate problems, but any measures we offer will be for a very strictly limited period of time.”
“Like countries around the world we are suffering from a temporary COVID-related shortage of drivers needed to move supplies across the country.”
The UK’s Road Haulage Association (RHA) says the UK is facing a shortage of around 100,000 drivers, as a result of workers leaving the industry, Brexit and COVID-19, which has forced driver training and training for nearly a year. Testing suspended.
Newspapers have reported that the government will allow 5,000 foreign drivers into the UK on short-term visas, a measure that logistics companies and retailers have sought for months, but the government had previously rejected.
Business leaders and the freight industry have welcomed the reported plan, but there are doubts about whether it will go far enough, or if drivers will move from Europe to the UK where the country is also facing labor shortages. .
“We’ll have to see if we can attract people for a short period of time,” Hu Merriman, chairman of Parliament’s transport committee, told BBC TV.
Brian Maderson, president of the Petrol Retailers Association, which represents independent fuel retailers, said he expects the problem to continue “for a while”.
“I think this situation is going to get worse before it gets better,” he told Sky News.
The issue came to the fore after BP said it had to close some of its outlets due to driver shortages, with Shell and ExxonMobil’s Esso also reporting problems with supplies to gas stations.
Easy Group, which operates 341 forecourts across the UK, said on Friday it would impose a 30-pound ($41) purchase limit per customer for the fuel due to “unprecedented customer demand”.
From early Saturday, motorists started queuing outside filling stations and some forecourts were closed as fuel ran out.
“I was out on my bike … and my BP came over to the garage and it was chaos,” Merriman said. “As the message gets out, there may be a fuel shortage, people react intelligently.”
Police across the country reported overcrowding caused by motorists waiting in line, and urged people not to contact them about traffic problems.
Britain, the world’s fifth-largest economy, is also grappling with rising European natural gas costs, driving up energy prices and potentially crippling food supply shortages.
Britain says the long-term solution for the freight industry is to hire more British drivers and better pay them.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)