The government urges the British not to buy out of panic, as the lack of carriers brings supply chains to a breaking point.
Several UK service stations have closed as a shortage of truck drivers brings some of the country’s vital supply chains closer to breaking point.
British oil giant BP temporarily closed some of its 1,200 UK service stations on Friday due to a lack of unleaded and diesel grades, which it attributed to a shortage of drivers.
ExxonMobil’s Esso said a small number of its 200 Tesco Alliance retail sites had also been affected.
Queues formed at some gas stations in London and southern England’s county of Kent on Friday as motorists rushed to fill, the Reuters news agency reported.
But Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps insisted there was no shortage of fuel and said the government was taking steps to recruit more drivers.
“The advice would be to continue as normal,” he told UK broadcaster Sky News, after other officials warned the public against panic buying.
Tense supply chains
Just as the world’s fifth-largest economy emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, the post-Brexit truck driver shortage and a surge in natural gas prices in Europe have left the UK grappling with the grim prospect of a possible food supply crisis and an increase in energy. bills.
The British transport industry says it needs around 100,000 more drivers after 25,000 returned to Europe before the UK left the European Union and the pandemic halted the process of qualifying new workers.
For months, supermarkets and farmers have been raising the alarm, saying it has become more difficult to get products to market.
Now that the industry raises the specter of a Christmas turkey and toy shortage, the government is struggling to attract more people to truck driving, long seen as a low-paid and unappreciated job.
Shapps, who denied the shortage is due to Brexit, said the UK was doubling the amount of tests available to become a truck driver. Britain was unable to test 40,000 drivers during its COVID-19 lockdowns, and the pandemic forced it to cancel tests.
He told Sky News that the government would “move heaven and earth” to address the shortage, including easing visa rules and deploying the army to deliver fuel.
But shippers and logistics companies cautioned that there were no quick fixes and warned that modifying the testing or visa processes would likely be too late to alleviate shortages before Christmas as retailers pile up bookings in the months to come.
The trucking industry body, the Road Haulage Association (RHA), has called on the government to allow short-term visas for international drivers to enter the UK and fill the supply gap while training British drivers.
“It’s a huge challenge,” Rod McKenzie, RHA’s chief of policy, told Reuters.
Mckenzie said that while international drivers could help in the short term, the industry must provide better wages and conditions.
“It is hard work. We British don’t help truckers like Europeans and Americans do by giving them decent facilities, ”he said.