LONDON – UK drivers expressed frustration on Tuesday as they hunted for hours or lined up to fill their tanks after gas stations in major cities ran dry due to a shortage of truckers which prompted the government to put the army on hold.
Queues of drivers returned from those gas stations which still served major cities, though dozens of forecourts were closed with signs saying they had no gasoline or diesel, journalists from Reuters.
A post-Brexit truck driver shortage, exacerbated by the halt in truck driving license testing during Covid lockdowns, has wreaked havoc on supply chains, raising fears of shortages and price hikes in approaching Christmas.
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Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said a limited number of military tanker drivers have been put on readiness to be deployed to deliver fuel if needed.
“I can’t believe it, it’s crazy,” said David Scade, a 33-year-old delivery driver who drove for hours in search of fuel in London.
“They keep saying there is no shortage but I guess everyone is panicking now,” said Scade, who was refueling at a Shell gas station in London.
Brawls broke out at some English gas stations as drivers scrambled for fuel. Doctors said health workers should be given priority to fill up their cars to keep health services running.
An air of chaos has gripped the world’s fifth-largest economy in recent weeks, as truck driver shortages strained supply chains and soaring wholesale natural gas prices in Europe pushed energy companies to bankruptcy.
Retailers, truckers and logistics companies have warned that prices for everything from energy to Christmas gifts will have to rise.
British ministers, fuel companies and service stations say fuel supplies are sufficient, but the shortage of truckers combined with panic buying has drained the system.
Such is the gravity of the situation that the British Medical Association has asked health workers to have priority access to fuel to keep health services running.
Demand for fuel has meant 50 to 90% of pumps were dry in parts of Britain, according to the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), which represents independent fuel retailers who make up 65% of all 8 380 British forecourts.
The government on Sunday announced a plan to issue temporary visas to 5,000 foreign truck drivers. But some Polish carriers have said the offer is laughable and few are likely to accept it.
Carriers, gas stations and retailers say there is no silver bullet because the shortage of truck drivers – estimated at around 100,000 – was so severe, and because fuel transportation requires training. and additional licenses.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has urged the government to expand the size and scope of the program to attract the truckers needed to keep Christmas supplies on track.
“To avoid disappointment for millions of homes over the holiday season, we urge the government to rapidly expand this program, both in size and scope, to heavy truck drivers in all sectors of the automotive industry. retail, “Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at BRC, said.
“It will be several months before there are enough new British drivers to cover the shortfall,” Opie said.