Panic buying by customers has caused fuel stations around the UK to run out of fuel, following media reports of an imminent fuel shortage to a lack of tanker drivers.
Demand has reportedly spiked up to 500% in some areas with drivers queuing to fill up cars and jerry cans. The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) told media outlets that two-thirds of the 5,500 fuel stations that make up its membership are out of fuel, with the rest reporting shortages. Brian Madderson, chairman of the PRA, told BBC Radio 4 that there is plenty of fuel available at terminals and refineries, but this is the ‘wrong place’ for motorists and there are not enough drivers to move it. The UK transport secretary Grant Shapps told Sky News on 26 September that there is not a fuel shortage and urged customers to only buy fuel as normal, when necessary.
Following a meeting with representatives from the fuel industry, including from the PRA, the UK Petroleum Industry Association (UKPIA), Greenergy, Shell, ExxonMobil and BP, UK business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has now agreed to suspend competition law to allow oil firms to share information and prioritise areas where fuel is most needed. Motorway service stations are currently being prioritised. The UK government was reportedly considering bringing in the Army to distribute fuel, but environment secretary George Eustice told the BBC that the option had been ruled out.
Ongoing problems with a lack of HGV drivers, blamed on various factors including Brexit, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and poor pay and conditions, are causing supply problems in a number of UK industries, including for some supermarkets which are struggling to keep shelves full. Some estimates suggest that up to 100,000 more drivers might be necessary. To tackle the problem, the UK government has announced an increase in HGV testing, making short-term visa available for HGV drivers, and bootcamps to train up to 3,000 people as HGV drivers.