A lack of HGV drivers is delaying the refuelling of petrol forecourts and prompting fuel rationing – but motorists should avoid panic buyingIs there a petrol shortage in the UK and why are fuel stations closing?
Why are some petrol stations closing?
BP and Tesco have reduced deliveries of fuel to some petrol stations and closed a small number because a shortage of HGV drivers means they cannot fully supply all sites.
EG Group has also imposed a £30 purchase limit at its 400 petrol stations.
Is there a petrol shortage in the UK?
There is no shortage of fuel in Britain, but the lack of drivers to transport petrol and diesel to forecourts has forced a small number to close temporarily.
That has sparked fears among motorists and led to panic buying in many areas, with long queues of cars forming.
Edmund King, president of the AA, says panic-buying and not supply issues is also driving the shortage of fuel at some petrol stations.
He says the problem should pass if drivers only fill their tanks when needed: “There is plenty of fuel at source. It’s not like the fuel crises in the past when the supplier was hit by strikes etc.”
Why is there a shortage of drivers?
Over the past few months, many companies have reported difficulties in hiring HGV drivers, which has led to empty shelves in supermarkets and forced restaurants to trim back their menus.
James Wroath, who heads up Wincanton, one of Britain’s biggest haulage companies, says there are a number of reasons behind the shortage.
During the pandemic, thousands of UK drivers who hailed from Europe returned to the Continent to be closer to their families and have yet to return. Some also left after Brexit.
He also argues that working conditions for lorry drivers have made it hard to entice remaining drivers back into roles, which often require long hours and sleeping in laybys during journeys.
Meanwhile, a backlog of new drivers waiting to take their tests is holding back recruitment, with thousands reported to be stuck in the system. The Government recently sought to address the problem by streamlining the testing process so that candidates did not have to take multiple tests before being able to drive different lorry categories.
However, industry groups warn this is “no quick fix” – particularly with pass rates of 56pc and only 3,000 people a week able to take their tests under the new regime.
How many drivers are needed?
Recent estimates put the shortfall at about 100,000 drivers – a significant number when bearing in mind the total number of drivers before the pandemic was close to 600,000.
In addition, not all qualified drivers are on the road. The Road Haulage Association estimates that just under half of qualified lorry drivers were working last year.
Indeed retaining drivers has been an issue for employers. According to BP, in the week starting Sept 6, 10 drivers joined the company but six left.
What else can be done?
The queues at petrol stations appear to have triggered a decision by Boris Johnson to relax immigration rules for European lorry drivers.
Up to 5,000 temporary visas for HGV drivers are expected to be granted under the plans, The Telegraph understands.