LONDON — British drivers were frustrated Tuesday as they waited in long lines to fill up their tanks after gas stations closed in major cities. This was due to a shortage of truckers, which has prompted the government’s decision to place the army on alert.
Lots of drivers rushed back to the gas stations in major cities that still had service, despite signs indicating they didn’t have diesel or gas, Reuters reporters reported.
A post-Brexit shortage of lorry drivers, exacerbated by a halt to truck-driving-license testing during Covid lockdowns, has sown chaos through supply chains, raising the specter of shortages and price rises in the run up to Christmas.
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Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said a limited number of military tanker drivers had been put on a state of readiness to be deployed to deliver fuel if necessary.
“I can’t believe it — it’s crazy,” said David Scade, a 33-year-old delivery driver who drove for hours searching for fuel in London.
” “They keep saying there’s no shortage, but I think everyone is panicking now,” Scade said while filling up at a Shell station in London.
Drivers jostled for fuel at several English gas stations. Doctors suggested that health workers should have priority when filling their cars in order to maintain the health system.
An atmosphere of chaos reigns in the fifth-largest economy in the world. A shortage of truckers has strained supply chains, and an increase in European wholesale natural gas prices has pushed energy companies into 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 gas stations say there are sufficient supplies of fuel but that the lack of truckers combined with panic buying has drained the system. The gravity of the situation is so severe that the British Medical Association called for priority fuel access for all health workers in order to keep the health service afloat.
The demand for fuel has meant that 50 percent to 90 percent of pumps were dry in some areas of Britain, according the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), which represents independent fuel retailers who account for 65 percent of all the 8,380 UK forecourts.
The government on Sunday announced a plan to issue temporary visas for 5,000 foreign truck drivers. Some Polish hauliers claimed that the offer was absurd and unlikely to be accepted.
Hauliers, gas stations and retailers say there are no quick fixes as the shortfall of truck drivers — estimated at about 100,000 — was so acute, and because transporting fuel demands additional training and licensing. The British Retail Consortium (BRC), urged the government expand the scope and size of the scheme in order to attract truckers to keep Christmas supplies on schedule.
” To avoid disappointment for millions upon Christmas, we urge the government expand this program both in size as well as scope to include HGV drivers from all sectors of the retail sector,” Andrew Opie (director of food and sustainability at BRC) said.
“It will take many months before there are enough new British drivers to cover the shortfall,” Opie said.