The British government put dozens of soldiers on standby on Monday to help ease fuel supply problems caused by truck drivers’ shortages, a situation that has sparked panic buying of gasoline across the country.
As unions called for emergency workers to prioritize the supply of fuel, the government said it was keeping British Army tanker drivers “in a state of readiness to be deployed to deliver fuel if necessary” where it is most needed.”
Trade Secretary Quasi Quarteng said Britain had a “strong supply of fuel”. “However, we are aware of supply chain issues at the fuel station forecourt and are taking steps to mitigate these as a matter of priority,” he said.
Long lines of vehicles have formed at several gas stations around the UK since Friday, causing traffic jams on busy roads. The mercury rose as some drivers waited for hours.
The Petrol Retailers Association, which represents about 5,500 independent outlets, said on Sunday that nearly two-thirds of its members had run out of fuel, as truck driver shortages set off a panic-buying round of gas. Had given.
The Conservative government insisted that the problems were blamed on consumer behavior. “The only reason we don’t have petrol in our yard is because people are buying petrol they don’t need,” Environment Secretary George Eustice said.
Major fuel firms, including BP, Shell and Esso, said in a joint statement that they expect gas demand to “return to its normal levels in the coming days.” “We would encourage people to buy fuel in general,” the statement said. But critics urged the government to keep the fuel flowing so that the shortage does not have a detrimental effect on health care, police operations and other critical sectors.
Dr. Chand Nagpaul at the British Medical Association said that health care workers and other essential services workers “should be given priority to fuel them to continue their vital work and to guarantee care to patients.”
Unison trade union general secretary Christina McNea urged the government to use its emergency powers to designate gas stations for key employees. “Ambulance crew, nurses, care workers, teaching assistants, police staff and other key staff should not be left stranded or queued for hours just to reach a pump,” he said.
The UK haulage industry says the UK is short of 100,000 truck drivers after the UK left the EU last year due to a perfect storm of factors including the coronavirus pandemic, an aging workforce and the exodus of foreign workers. Post-Brexit immigration rules mean that EU citizens can no longer live visa-free in the UK, as they could when the UK was a member of the bloc.
Truck drivers shortage in US, Germany
Several other countries, including the United States and Germany, are also facing shortages of truck drivers, but the problem is particularly visible in Britain, where it has contributed to empty supermarket shelves and closed gas pumps.
Roland McKibbin, an electrician in London, said he had to cancel his job because he could not get gas. “No fuel means I can’t drive, which means I can’t get a job with my equipment,” he said. “So, basically, panic-buying idiots have me losing income and taking food straight off the table for my wife and 5-year-old son, because I can’t wire people’s houses from home.”
In an effort to ease the gas crisis, the government said it was temporarily suspending competition laws so fuel companies can share information and target areas where supplies are running low. It’s also bringing in military driving testers to help clear the backlog of new truck drivers waiting to be tested. And, after weeks of mounting pressure over shortages, the UK’s Conservative government announced on Saturday it would issue 5,000 emergency visas to foreign truck drivers to help prevent Christmas without turkeys or toys for many British families.
But this is far short of the required number, and critics also said the 3-month visa was too short to entice European truck drivers.
Ruby McGregor-Smith, president of the Confederation of British Industry, said the visa was “the equivalent of throwing a drop of water on a bonfire.”
Radu Dinescu, general secretary of the National Union of Road Transporters in Romania, said Romanian drivers – who did a large number of jobs in the UK before Brexit – now “prioritize the stability of the EU.” Romania is a member of the European Union and Dinescu said its drivers could earn higher wages by working in France or Germany.
“The UK is experiencing a contradiction … British citizens do not want to practice the job of a truck driver, while at the same time they do not want other non-UK citizens to come to do the job,” he told The Associated Press. Told .
The leader of Germany’s Social Democrats, Olaf Scholz, the party that came first in the country’s election on Sunday, also linked the lack of UK workers to Brexit.
“The free movement of labor is part of the European Union, and we worked very hard to persuade the British not to leave the union,” he said. “Now they made a different decision, and I hope they manage the problems that come with it.”