British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing calls to enlist in the military to help ease the truck driver shortage that has crippled gas stations across the country.
Drivers have been in line for hours and thousands of gas stations have had to shut down after running out of fuel. BP said 30 percent of its 1,200 outlets had run out of gas and Easy Group, which operates around 400 stations, has introduced a £30 limit. The Petrol Retailers Association, which represents 5,500 independent operators, said nearly two-thirds of its members ran out of gas over the weekend.
“We need to have some calm,” PRA executive director Gordon Balmer said Monday. “Please don’t panic with the purchase. If people kill the network it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
The government has been scrambling for several days to overcome the crisis, which is showing no signs of stopping. Over the weekend, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced a temporary visa scheme that would allow 5,000 truck drivers from Europe to work in Britain for three months. On Monday, the government also suspended competition rules to allow gas dealers to share information and coordinate deliveries.
Mr Shapps has also sent letters encouraging the nearly one million retired truck drivers and drivers who have recently left the industry to return to work. “If you are no longer working in this field, we would like to take this opportunity to ask you to consider returning,” the letter said. “There are great HGV driving opportunities in the logistics industry and improving employment and wage conditions across the region.”
Government ministers have insisted that there is no shortage of fuel and appealed to the people to stop the frenzied purchases. “The most important thing is that people buy petrol in general,” Environment Secretary George Eustice said on Monday. “The cause of these current problems is panic buying.”
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On Monday, a group of major oil companies including Shell, BP and Exxon Mobile also tried to placate consumers. The companies said in a joint statement, “There is a lot of fuel in the UK’s refineries and terminals, and as an industry we are working closely with the government to ensure that fuel is made available at stations across the country.” can go.” “We would encourage everyone to buy fuel as they usually do.”
But it has so far done little to quell the stampede at the pumps. It was hard to find many gas stations around London that were open on Monday; Some had dried up since Friday. Some stations that had gas were filled with queues of cars, and there have been reports of fistfights and shouting matches, along with anger flares. PRA President Brian Maderson told the BBC that a gas station received a tanker delivery in the afternoon and all gas was sold within hours.
The head of the British Medical Association expressed concern that some health care workers could not go to work, and fears that ambulance services could be affected.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan urged Mr Johnson to call in the army to ease supply pressure. “We have to call in the army as soon as possible,” said Mr. Khan. “The reality is that the military has experience in logistics and the experience to come in as quickly as possible.”
Mr Eustice said there were no plans to engage the military yet, but there have been reports that some soldiers have begun training for gas delivery. “We always have a civilian contingency section within the military on standby – but we are not jumping on that at the moment,” he said.
Truck drivers shortages have persisted for months, largely due to the pandemic and Brexit. COVID-19 restrictions have halted thousands of driving tests, and Britain’s departure from the EU has cut off the free flow of truckers from the EU. While other European countries have faced similar driver shortages, Britain has been hit hard.
Grocery stores and some fast-food chains experienced delivery problems this summer, but things got worse last week when BP announced that some of its gas stations would have to close. This led to a spurt in gas procurement, which has added to the problem.
The Road Haulage Association, which represents the trucking industry, has estimated that the UK has fewer than 100,000 drivers. This was compared with a shortfall of about 60,000 before the pandemic. The association also said the country was dependent on around 60,000 EU drivers, but most have returned home because of Brexit. It won’t be easy to lure them back with the promise of a temporary work visa.
RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said the visa scheme “will not have any material impact in 2021 because it is too late.” Once they applied, they were allowed and found somewhere to live.”
In a sign of how desperate companies have become to find truck drivers, some are offering salaries of more than £70,000, or $121,000. This is almost double the current pay scale. Supermarket chain Tesco is also offering drivers a signing bonus of £1,000, and online retailer Ocado has announced plans to spend £5 million on higher salaries and bonuses.
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