UK gas stations run dry as trucker shortage sparks hoarding

Business

Associated Press 26 September, 2021 - 01:33pm 55 views

Why is there a fuel crisis in UK?

The fuel panic comes as Britain faces several crises: an international gas price surge that is forcing energy firms out of business, a related shortage of carbon dioxide that threatens to derail meat production, and a shortage of truck drivers that is playing havoc with retailers and leaving some shelves bare. ReutersBP says nearly a third of its UK fuel stations running on empty

Explainer: How Britain ‘has just days to save Christmas’ – and why Ireland could be affected by shortages

Independent.ie 25 September, 2021 - 07:29am

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Britain's retail industry warned the government this week that unless it moves to alleviate an acute shortage of truckers in the next 10 days then significant disruption is inevitable in the run-up to Christmas.

As the world's fifth-largest economy emerges from COVID-19 lockdowns, a spike in European natural gas prices and a post-Brexit shortage of truck drivers have left Britain grappling with soaring energy prices and a potential food supply crunch.

BP had to close some of its petrol stations due to the driver shortages while queues formed at some Shell stations as pumps ran dry in some places. ExxonMobil's Esso said a small number of its 200 Tesco Alliance retail sites had also been impacted in some way.

In a rush to fill up, drivers also queued at some petrol stations in London and the southern English county of Kent. Diesel has run out at some stations.

According to the Institute for Government in the UK, the biggest issue is staff shortages - with Covid-19, Brexit and wider economic concerns all being blamed. It says the haulage sector is particularly badly affected with some industry representatives estimating staff shortages of up to 100,000 drivers.

This in-turn has led to a number of garages closing because there is no one to deliver the fuel to them. The institute says the food supply chain is also seriously impacted by shortages of up to a half a million workers – roughly 12.5pc of the total staff needed in the industry.

It has warned that the food and drink sector has already raised concerns about how it will cope with the additional demands of the busy Christmas period – adding that toy and wine producers have also warned of possible shortages.

For months supermarkets, processors and farmers have warned that a shortage of heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers was straining supply chains to breaking point - making it harder to get goods on to shelves.

"Unless new drivers are found in the next 10 days, it is inevitable that we will see significant disruption in the run-up to Christmas," said Andrew Opie, director of food & sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, the retail industry's lobby group, warned on Friday. 

"HGV drivers are the glue which hold our supply chains together," Opie said. "Without them, we are unable to move goods from farms to warehouses to shops."

Get ahead of the day with the morning headlines at 7.30am and Fionnán Sheahan's exclusive take on the day's news every afternoon, with our free daily newsletter.

The next 10 days are crucial because retailers ramp up supplies in October to ensure there are enough goods for the peak Christmas season.

Britain is expected to announce plans to issue temporary work visas to truck drivers to ease the acute labour shortage.

However, hauliers and logistics companies cautioned that there were no quick fixes and that any change to testing or visas would likely be too late to alleviate the pre-Christmas shortages as retailers stockpile months ahead.

The trucking industry body, the Road Haulage Association (RHA), has called on the government to allow short-term visas for international drivers to enter Britain and fill the gap, while British drivers are being trained for the future.

"It's an enormous challenge," Rod McKenzie, head of policy at the RHA, told Reuters. In the short-term, he said, international drivers could help, even if it may be too late to help Christmas, and in the longer term the industry needed better pay and conditions to attract workers.

"It's a tough job. We the British do not help truckers in the way that Europeans and Americans do by giving them decent facilities," he said.

The British haulage industry says it needs around 100,000 more drivers after 25,000 returned to Europe before Brexit and the pandemic halted the qualification process for new workers.

Shapps, who said the driver shortage was not due to Brexit, said COVID-19 exacerbated the problem given that Britain was unable to test 40,000 drivers during lockdowns.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government has insisted that there will be no return to the 1970s when Britain was cast by allies as the "sick man of Europe" with three-day weeks, energy shortages and rampant inflation.

There are reports across the UK of customers “panic buying” food and fuel in particular. The president of the AA, in Britain, says panic-buying rather than supply chain issues is driving the shortage of fuel at some petrol stations.

Edmund King said the problem should pass in a matter of days if drivers just stick to filling up when they need it, adding “there is plenty of fuel at source”.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Mr King said shortage of lorry drivers had only been a “localised problem” earlier in the week.

His words come ahead of an expected announcement by the Government that visa rules for foreign lorry drivers will be relaxed.

“We were in discussions with Government ministers last night and we talked to the major fuel companies, and we can reiterate there is not a problem with supply at the source,” Mr King said.

Speaking in New York, Taoiseach Micheal Martin said: “I’ve been concerned for a long time in relation to Brexit. I think Covid has masked a lot of the issues around Brexit. Now we've managed to weather some of the storm because of the preparation, and we prepared well, and also because we're opening up links to Europe and so on.”

Mr Martin admitted he was concerned when asked about the potential knock-on impact for Ireland in terms of deliveries into country and people trying to get back home for Christmas.

“I think the fallout has yet to come in terms of Brexit and I think, you know, if we could take the politics away from it, I think everybody, including the UK, need to reflect on how it's working because we owe it to those at the frontline of industry and business, that systems run smoothly.

“I think there hasn't been the same level of preparation in the UK for Brexit and the results of that are showing in some aspects of British commerce and British businesses,” he said.

Britain has just 10 days left to save Christmas from trucker shortage, say retailers

Independent.ie 24 September, 2021 - 08:30pm

Supermarkets, processors and farmers have warned that a shortage of HGV drivers is straining supply chains

Police officers arrest a protestor from the group Insulate Britain at the entrance to the of Port of Dover. Photo: Reuters/ Henry Nicholls

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Police officers arrest a protestor from the group Insulate Britain at the entrance to the of Port of Dover. Photo: Reuters/ Henry Nicholls

Britain’s retail industry has warned the government that unless it moves to alleviate a shortage of truckers in the next 10 days then significant disruption is inevitable in the run-up to Christmas.

As the world’s fifth-largest economy emerges from Covid-19 lockdowns, a spike in European natural gas prices and a post-Brexit shortage of truck drivers have left Britain grappling with soaring energy prices and a potential food supply crunch.

BP temporarily closed some of its 1,200 UK petrol stations due to a lack of both unleaded and diesel grades, which it blamed on driver shortages. ExxonMobil’s Esso said a small number of its 200 Tesco Alliance retail sites had also been impacted.

Queues formed at some gas stations in London and the southern English county of Kent as motorists rushed to fill up.

For months supermarkets, processors and farmers have warned that a shortage of heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers was straining supply chains to breaking point –making it harder to get goods on to shelves.

“HGV drivers are the glue which hold our supply chains together. Without them, we are unable to move goods from farms to warehouses to shops,” said Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, the retail industry’s lobby group.

“Unless new drivers are found in the next 10 days, it is inevitable that we will see significant disruption in the run-up to Christmas.”

Hauliers and logistics companies cautioned that there were no quick fixes and that any change to testing or visas would likely be too late to alleviate the pre-Christmas shortages as retailers stockpile months ahead.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has insisted there will be no return to the 1970s, when Britain was cast by allies as the “sick man of Europe” with three-day weeks, energy shortages and rampant inflation.

As ministers urged the public not to panic buy, some of Britain’s biggest supermarkets have warned that a shortage of truck drivers could lead to just that ahead of Christmas.

Get ahead of the day with the morning headlines at 7.30am and Fionnán Sheahan's exclusive take on the day's news every afternoon, with our free daily newsletter.

Meanwhile, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said that Johnson, whom he met in New York, had asked him for an “emergency” agreement to supply a food product that is lacking in Britain, though the British embassy disputed Mr Bolsonaro’s account.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said there was a global shortage of truckers after Covid halted lorry driver testing so Britain was doubling the number of tests. Asked if the government would ease visa rules, he said the government would look at all options.

“We’ll do whatever it takes,” Mr Shapps told Sky News. “We’ll move heaven and earth to do whatever we can to make sure that shortages are alleviated with HGV drivers. We should see it smooth out fairly quickly.”

The British trucking industry body, the Road Haulage Association (RHA), has called on the government to allow short-term visas for international drivers to enter Britain and fill the gap, while British drivers are being trained for the future.

“It’s an enormous challenge,” Rod McKenzie, head of policy at the RHA, told Reuters. In the short-term, he said, international drivers could help, even if it may be too late to help Christmas, and the industry needed better pay and conditions to attract workers.

“It’s a tough job. We the British do not help truckers in the way that Europeans and Americans do by giving them decent facilities,” he said.

The British haulage industry says it needs around 100,000 more drivers after 25,000 returned to Europe before Brexit and the pandemic halted the qualification process for new workers.

Mr Shapps, who said the driver shortage was not due to Brexit, said Covid exacerbated the problem.

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