With thousands of gas stations running dry since, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has announced a series of emergency measures to deal with the fuel crisis, including issuing temporary work visas for up to 5,500 foreign truck drivers and the suspension of competition law to allow suppliers to deliver fuel. to competing operators.
The government said Monday evening that British Army tanker drivers had been “put into readiness” and could be used to deliver fuel to where it is most needed.
“If necessary, the deployment of military personnel will provide the supply chain with additional capacity as a temporary measure to help alleviate the pressures caused by spikes in localized demand for fuel,” said the British Secretary for Business, Kwasi Kwarteng, in a statement.
The Petrol Retailers Association, which represents independent fuel suppliers, told the BBC that up to two-thirds of the 5,500 service stations operated by its members have run out of fuel, the rest being “partly dry and soon. exhausted”. Social media users have reported long queues at stations across the country, and some motorists making longer journeys have been forced to abandon their cars after running out of fuel.
Labor shortages are a growing problem in Britain, which has one million record vacancies. The shortage of truck drivers has been exacerbated by the pandemic and Brexit, which have led tens of thousands of EU nationals to quit trucking jobs and other professions in the UK.
According to the Road Haulage Association, the UK is short of around 100,000 truckers. Last month, the UK government said “most of the solutions” to the crisis would be driven by industry and that it did not want to depend on workers from outside the country.
Ruby McGregor-Smith, president of the British Chambers of Commerce, said the government’s decision to offer 5,500 temporary visas to foreign truck drivers was insufficient, comparing it to “throwing a dice of water on a bonfire”.
“Without further action, we now face the very real prospect of serious damage to our economic recovery, stifled growth as well as another less than happy Christmas for many businesses and their customers across the country,” she said in a statement.
Brian Madderson, president of the Petrol Retailers Association, said calling in the military alone will not be enough to resolve the crisis, as soldiers may not have the training to fill storage tanks at stations- service.
“It’s not an absolute panacea,” he told BBC Radio. “There is not a single lever that is going to be pulled by the government and the industry that will resolve this situation.”
BP said in a statement on Sunday that it was seeing “intense demand” and that about 30% of its 1,200 supply sites across the UK lacked any of the major grades of fuel. The company said it was “working to restock as quickly as possible.”
Shell welcomed the government’s action on Monday, saying it “is seeing above-normal demand on our network resulting in a shortage of some sites on some grades. We are replenishing them quickly, usually within 24 hours. time”.
– Anna Cooban, Chris Liakos and Hanna Ziady contributed reporting.