Gas station pumps ran dry in major British cities on Monday and suppliers rationed sales as a shortage of truckers strained supply chains to the breaking point in the world’s fifth-largest economy.
A severe post-Brexit truck driver shortage as the COVID-19 pandemic subsides has wreaked havoc on UK supply chains on everything from food to fuel, raising the specter of disruptions and price hikes. in the run-up to Christmas.
Drivers queued for hours to fill their cars at gas stations that were still serving fuel, though they were often rationed, and National Health Service (NHS) workers were asked to take priority to keep hospitals open while the pandemic continues.
“As the pumps run out, there is a real risk that NHS staff will not be able to do their jobs and provide vital services and care to people who need it urgently,” said Council Chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul. of the British Medical Association. .
Pumps in British cities were either closed or had signs saying fuel was not available on Monday, Reuters reporters said, with some limiting the amount of fuel each customer could buy.
The Gasoline Retailers Association (PRA), which represents independent fuel retailers, said members had reported that 50 to 90 percent of the pumps were dry in some areas.
“We need some calm,” Gordon Balmer, executive director of the PRA, who worked for BP for 30 years, told Reuters. “Please don’t panic, buy: if people deplete the network, then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Royal Dutch Shell said it had seen higher demand for fuel than usual from its British network and that some sites were running out of some grades of fuel.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said there was no fuel shortage, urged people to stop panic buying, and said there were no plans for the military to drive trucks, although the Defense Ministry would help with testing of fuel. Additional Heavy Vehicle Drivers (HGV).
No quick fixes
However, trucking companies, service stations and retailers cautioned that there were no quick fixes as the shortage of truck drivers, estimated at around 100,000, was very acute and because fuel transportation requires training. and additional licenses.
For months, supermarkets, processors and farmers have warned that the shortage of heavy-duty vehicle drivers was pushing supply chains to breaking point, making it difficult to put products on the shelves.
Amid warnings that a terrible winter is coming, some European Union politicians linked supply chain stress to the 2016 Brexit referendum and Britain’s subsequent decision to seek a distant relationship with the bloc.
“The free movement of workers is part of the European Union, and we are trying very hard to convince the British not to leave the Union,” said Olaf Scholz, the Social Democratic candidate who is likely to succeed Angela Merkel as German Chancellor. “They decided differently. I hope they handle the problems that arise from that.”
British ministers have insisted that Brexit has nothing to do with the current shortage of truckers, although around 25,000 truckers returned to Europe before Brexit. Britain also failed to test 40,000 drivers during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
The government announced on Sunday a plan to issue temporary visas for 5,000 foreign truckers.
Edwin Atema, head of investigation and compliance for the Netherlands-based union FNV, told the BBC that EU drivers were unlikely to flock to Britain given the conditions on offer.
“The EU workers we spoke to will not go to the UK for a short-term visa to help the UK get out of the shit they created themselves,” Atema said.