'Panic buying': Chaos as UK petrol stations run dry

Author
AP,
Publish Date
Mon, 27 Sep 2021, 12:24PM
Cars queue outside a petrol station in Reading, England. (Photo / AP)
Cars queue outside a petrol station in Reading, England. (Photo / AP)

'Panic buying': Chaos as UK petrol stations run dry

Author
AP,
Publish Date
Mon, 27 Sep 2021, 12:24PM

Thousands of British petrol stations ran dry on Sunday, an industry group said, as motorists scrambled to fill up amid a supply disruption due to a shortage of truck drivers.

The Petrol Retailers Association, which represents almost 5500 independent outlets, said about two-thirds of its members were reporting that they had sold out their fuel, with the rest "partly dry and running out soon."

Association chairman Brian Madderson said the shortages were the result of "panic buying, pure and simple".

A view of a sign at a petrol station, in Bracknell England, on Sunday. Photo / AP

A view of a sign at a petrol station, in Bracknell England, on Sunday. Photo / AP

"There is plenty of fuel in this country, but it is in the wrong place for the motorists," he told the BBC. "It is still in the terminals and the refineries."

Long lines of vehicles formed at many gas stations over the weekend, and tempers frayed as some drivers waited for hours. Police were called to one London petrol station on Sunday after a scuffle broke out. Police said a man was arrested on suspicion of assault.

The haulage industry says the UK is short tens of thousands of truckers, due to a perfect storm of factors including the coronavirus pandemic, an ageing workforce and an exodus of foreign workers following Britain's Brexit departure from the European Union last year.

A member of staff directs drivers in a queue for fuel at a closed Sainsbury's petrol station in south London. Photo / AP

A member of staff directs drivers in a queue for fuel at a closed Sainsbury's petrol station in south London. Photo / AP
Cars queue outside a petrol station in Slough, England. Photo / AP
Cars queue outside a petrol station in Slough, England. Photo / AP
A closed petrol station in Bristol, England. Photo / AP
A closed petrol station in Bristol, England. Photo / AP

Several countries, including the United States and Germany, also are experiencing a shortage of truck drivers. The problem has been especially visible in Britain, where it has contributed to empty supermarket shelves and shuttered gas pumps.

After weeks of mounting pressure, the UK's 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 would issue 5000 three-month visas for truck drivers starting in October, and another 5500 for poultry workers.

Industry groups welcomed the new visa plan, although the British Retail Consortium said it was "too little, too late".

Ruby McGregor-Smith, president of the Confederation of British Industry, said the announcement was "the equivalent of throwing a thimble of water on a bonfire."

The Guardian reported that PM Boris Johnson is considering enlisting the army to deliver fuel to petrol stations.

The emergency plan, drafted as a no-deal Brexit option, could see hundreds of soldiers being used to drive a reserve fleet of 80 tankers.

One expert suggested a high level of shortages will last at least another five days – and could go on even longer.