Thousands of British gas stations dried up on Monday, an industry group said, as motorists scrambled to refuel amid a supply disruption due to a shortage of truck drivers.
The Gasoline Retailers Association (PRA), which represents nearly 5,500 independent outlets, said that about two-thirds of its members reported that they had run out of fuel, with the rest “partially dry and out of stock soon.”
In some areas, as many as 90 percent of gas stations had been sold out, PRA President Brian Madderson said, adding that the shortage was the result of “panic buying, pure and simple.”
“There is a lot of fuel in this country, but it is in the wrong place for motorists,” he told the BBC. “It is still in the terminals and the refineries.”
Over the weekend, long lines of vehicles formed at many gas stations, and tempers broke as some drivers waited for hours. Police were called to a London gas station on Sunday after a fight broke out. Police said a man was arrested on suspicion of assault.
BP, which operates 1,200 sites in Britain, said nearly a third of its filling stations had run out of the two main types of fuel by Sunday.
The haulage industry says the UK is short of tens of thousands of truckers, due to a perfect storm of factors including the coronavirus pandemic, an aging workforce and an exodus of foreign workers following the UK’s departure from the UK. Brexit from the European Union last year.
Commenting on the petrol station problems in the UK, French European Affairs Minister Clément Beaune said on Monday they reflected the “intellectual fraud” that was Brexit.
Several countries, including the United States and Germany, are also experiencing a truck driver shortage. The problem has been especially visible in Britain, where it has contributed to emptying supermarket shelves and shutting down gas pumps.
After weeks of mounting pressure, the UK Conservative government announced on Saturday that it will issue thousands of emergency visas to foreign truck drivers to help prevent a Christmas without turkey or toys for many British families. The government said it will issue 5,000 three-month visas for truckers starting in October and another 5,500 for poultry workers.
‘We don’t want to see shortages before Christmas,’ says UK Transport Minister
Industry groups welcomed the new visa scheme, although the British Retail Consortium said it was “too little, too late.”
Ruby McGregor-Smith, president of the Confederation of British Industry, said the ad was “the equivalent of throwing a thimble of water on a bonfire.”