U.K. Fuel Delivery Disruptions Lead to Panic Buying

Brits queue for hours for fuel while the government puts military on standby to ease the crunch.

September 28, 2021

UK Fuel Pumps

LONDON—A truck driver shortage has forced some service stations in the United Kingdom to close, leading Brits to panic buy gasoline, reports CNN and Reuters. Emergency measures have been issued by the government, including temporary work visas for up to 5,500 foreign truck drivers, suspending competition law to allow suppliers to deliver fuel to rival operators, and British Army tanker drivers have been "brought to a state of readiness" and could be used to deliver fuel where it is needed most.

Stations called to prioritize fuel for National Health Service (NHS) staff and other emergency workers. Members of the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), which represents independent fuel retailers accounting for 65% of all the 8,380 U.K. forecourts, said 50% to 90% of pumps were dry in some areas.

"There is plenty of fuel at U.K. refineries and terminals, and as an industry we are working closely with the government to help ensure fuel is available to be delivered to stations across the country," said BP, Royal Dutch Shell and ExxonMobil's Esso in a joint statement.

Brian Madderson with PRA says that the military may not have enough training to refill storage tanks at gas station, so calling on the military alone may not be enough by the government. But Shell approved of the military help as the company has "been seeing a higher than normal demand across our network which is resulting in some sites running low on some grades. We are replenishing these quickly, usually within 24 hours."

Britain has been dealing with worker shortages. It has one million open job positions, a record amount, and the truck driver shortage has been made worse from the pandemic and Brexit, as members of the European Union left truck driver and other jobs in the U.K.

The U.S. is also dealing with labor shortages and has been dealing with truck driver shortages in particular for some time. The shortage has led carriers to tap into a diverse talent pool.

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