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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Fuel queue hits UK cities over shortage of truck drivers to deliver gasoline to stations

…Estimated 90,000 truck drivers needed

…Fear of fuel scarcity 

United Kingdom Prime Minister, Boris Johnson is under pressure to deploy soldiers to drive petrol trucks as a major shortage of HGV drivers threatens to wreak havoc this winter, Dailymail reports.

MPs have said the Army could be used as a short term fix amid increasingly dire warnings over the damage the driver shortage could do in the coming weeks unless urgent action is taken.

Retailers today warned ministers they have just 10 days to save Christmas from ‘significant disruption’ due to the lack of drivers.

The British Retail Consortium said that disruption over the festive period will be ‘inevitable’ unless the shortfall of an estimated 90,000 drivers is addressed.

Ministers have reportedly discussed contingency plans for the Army to be brought in to drive petrol tankers to station forecourts but it is thought they would only be enacted as a last resort.

Tory MP Marcus Fysh said that bringing in the Army would ‘not be an unreasonable way to think about dealing with an issue’.

He said: ‘If there is a problem that needs to be fixed in the near term then that might be a way of fixing it.’

Ministers have been accused of dooming Britain to a Winter of Incompetence as panic buying of fuel escalated today amid urgent talks on giving temporary visas to foreign HGV drivers.

The Government has been lambasted for failing to see the problems coming as huge queues developed at petrol stations, with fears rationing might even be needed.

Despite desperate assurances from Transport Secretary Grant Shapps that there is no shortage of fuel in the country and people should ‘carry on as normal’, queues of cars built up at garages across the country.

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In the face of the chaos, ministers seem to be on the verge of agreeing to shore up the numbers of HGV drivers by granting temporary visas to EU nationals – something that retailers and industry have been demanding for months but they previously resisted.

Environment Secretary George Eustice is thought to have been pushing for the move along with Cabinet Office minister Steve Barclay. Mr Shapps, who has previously been sceptical saying that businesses should pay Britons more to take the jobs rather than rely on cheap labour from abroad, struck a notably softer tone in interviews this morning. Kwasi Kwarteng is also seemingly lowering objections to a time-limited change.

But critics question why it has taken so long to address the problems, as companies have been raising alarm for months about the brewing crisis.

The driver shortage has been exacerbated by a huge backlog in HGV tests due to Covid, as well as foreign drivers returning home amid the pandemic and Brexit.

There have also been huge pressures on global supply chains with economies getting up and running after the effective coronavirus shutdown – as well as factors like the Suez canal having been blocked months ago.

Desperate motorists were cramming into forecourts in Tonbridge, Kent, in Ely, Cambridgeshire, Bright and Leeds this morning.

One petrol station in Essex, was already said to have run out of diesel by this morning, while outside another forecourt on the A12, also in Essex, queues were said to be ‘three rows deep to every pump’. There are reports of some garages hiking their prices overnight.

The scenes of queues outside petrol stations – which for some will stir up memories of the 1973 Opec Oil Crisis and the 2000 fuel shortage – come amid fears of a 1978-style ‘winter of discontent’ for the UK, with skyrocketing energy prices, food shortages and fuel rationing.

Yesterday BP announced plans to ration fuel and a ‘handful’ of its petrol stations, along with ‘small number’ of Tesco refilling stations, while supermarkets warned of food shortages and more energy firms went bust amid rising gas prices – sparking fears of a new ‘winter of discontent’.

And in a particularly unhelpful addition to the problem, eco-mob Insulate Britain returned to the roads today to block off a route to Port of Dover – Europe’s busiest port and the UK’s main gateway for trade from the EU.

Last night the Petrol Retailers Association added to the rising sense of carnage by urging motorists to ‘keep a quarter of a tank’ of fuel in their vehicles in preparation for potential closures of local petrol stations.

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