LONDON, Sept 25 (Reuters) - Lengthy queues of vehicles
snaked their way to gas stations in Britain on Saturday where an
acute shortage of truck drivers has led to fuel rationing and
some pumps running dry, and prompted the government to consider
issuing temporary work visas.
Across the country, motorists waited in long lines to fill
up their vehicles. One big distributor said it was rationing
sales and a number of operators said they were having to close
some forecourts, provoking panic-buying.
Government ministers and oil companies say there are ample
stocks of petrol or diesel and there is no cause for alarm, but
the lack of truck drivers is hampering transport of fuel from
refineries to gas stations.
With retailers https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/britain-resolve-trucker-shortage-swiftly-minister-says-2021-09-24
also warning of significant disruption to their supplies in the
run-up to Christmas, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's office has
said it is looking at a short-term fix to address the shortage
of heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers.
"We're looking at temporary measures to avoid any immediate
problems, but any measures we introduce will be very strictly
time limited," a spokeswoman for Johnson's Downing Street office
said in a statement.
"Like countries around the world we are suffering from a
temporary COVID-related shortage of drivers needed to move
supplies around the country."
The UK's Road Haulage Association (RHA) says Britain is
facing a shortage of some 100,000 drivers, a result of workers
leaving the industry, Brexit and COVID-19, which put a stop to
driver training and testing for about a year.
Newspapers have reported that the government would allow up
to 5,000 foreign drivers into Britain on short-term visas, a
measure that logistics companies and retailers have demanded for
months but which the government had previously ruled out.
Business leaders and the haulage industry have welcomed the
reported plan, but there are also doubts about whether it will
go far enough, or if drivers will come to Britain from Europe
where countries are also facing labour shortages.
"We'll have to see if we can attract people for a short
period of time," Huw Merriman, chairman of parliament's
transport committee, told BBC TV.
Brian Madderson, the chairman of the Petrol Retailers
Association which represents independent fuel retailers, said he
expected the problem to continue for a "while longer".
"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 the driver shortages, with
Shell and ExxonMobil's Esso also reporting
problems with supplies to gas stations.
EG Group, which runs 341 forecourts across Britain, said on
Friday it would impose a purchase limit of 30 pounds ($41) per
customer for fuel due to the "unprecedented customer demand".
From early on Saturday, motorists began queuing outside
filling stations and some forecourts closed as fuel ran out.
"I was out on my bike ... and came past my BP garage and it
was chaos," Merriman said. "As soon as the message gets out
there might be a fuel shortage, people understandably react."
Police across the country reported congestion caused by
motorists waiting in line, and urged people not to contact them
about the problems the traffic was causing.
Britain, the world's fifth-largest economy, is also
grappling with a spike in European natural gas costs causing
soaring energy prices and a potential food supply crunch.
Britain says the long-term solution for the haulage industry
is for more British drivers to be hired and for them to be paid
($1 = 0.7311 pounds)
(Reporting by Michael Holden and Guy Faulconbridge
Editing by Helen Popper and Frances Kerry)