For three days, panicked drivers have been queuing in the forecourts of fuel stations, desperate to get their hands on the liquid gold in fear of a shortage. Many gas stations have now had to enforce limits on customers, some even having to close altogether as demand for petrol has far outweighed the lack of tanker drivers.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has now urged Brits to stop panic-buying fuel, suggesting that ‘there is no shortage of fuel’ and the idea was manufactured by ‘irresponsible briefings.’
Is there a fuel shortage in the UK?
Drivers have been desperately queuing up, filling their cars and jerry cans with petrol over fears that England is facing a fuel shortage. However, these fears may be bred from a misunderstanding, and the immense panic-buying currently ensuing at gas stations is the real reason why some BP’s have had to limit fuel or close their doors. Fuel giant BP said in a statement:
With the intense demand seen over the past two days, we estimate that around 30% of sites in this network do not currently have either of the main grades of fuel.
The Transport Secretary appeared on Sky News’ Trevor Phillips On Sunday to explain the reality of the situation: ‘I think the important thing to know is that within the country, at the six refineries and 47 storage facilities, there is plenty of fuel, there is no shortage of fuel within the country.’
So the most important thing is actually that if people carry on as they normally would and fill up their cars when they normally would, then you won’t have queues and you won’t have shortages at the pump either.
Shapps continued: ‘It is not like we don’t have fuel in the country; we do need to just ensure people are filling up when they need to fill up rather than thinking, “I better go and fill up now just in case I need it next week or the week after.’
The good news is there is plenty of fuel; the bad news is if everyone carries on buying it when they don’t need it then we will continue to have queues.
BP has also revealed it will be cutting supplies to 90% of its fuel stations across the country in order to distribute supplies more evenly.
Why are people panic-buying fuel if there’s no shortage?
It makes sense to wonder, if there’s no fuel shortage, why are people all rushing to fill up their cars? It seems that the issue isn’t with the fuel itself but a lack of heavy goods vehicles (HGV) drivers, which is affecting many different supply chains across the country.
The lorry industry blames the shortfall on Brexit’s exodus of 25,000 European drivers and a lack of training delivered during the pandemic that could have introduced more people to the workforce.
The Road Haulage Association (RHA) has revealed there are 100,000 job vacancies currently available in the HGV sector, with a backlog of 40,000 drivers waiting to take their HGV tests.
To aid the situation, the government will be issuing 5,000 temporary visas to European HGV drivers. However, businesses have warned that this is a short-term solution that still leaves the bigger problem of a lack of UK drivers.
Additionally, up to 4,000 people are set to be trained as truck drivers, and further letters have been sent out to former HGV drivers to urge them to return to the workforce.
Grant Shapps added: ‘We are acting now, but the industries must also play their part with working conditions continuing to improve and the deserved salary increases continuing to be maintained in order for companies to retain new drivers.’