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Britain doesn’t have enough truck drivers, and now it doesn’t have enough fuel. Read about the fuel crisis where army could get involved

The British Petroleum on Sunday said that nearly a third of its petrol stations in the country had run out of the two main grades of fuel.

Several gas stations across England witnessed long queues of vehicles, rough scuffles and panic buying over the weekend. The British Petroleum on Sunday said that nearly a third of its petrol stations in the country had run out of the two main grades of fuel.

The Petrol Retailers Association also informed that up to 90 per cent of British fuel stations ran dry across major cities on Monday. 

Is UK running out of fuel?

Reportedly, as per the United Kingdom (UK) transport minister Grant Shapps, “There’s plenty of fuel, there’s no shortage of fuel within the country.”

However, there are not enough truck drivers to transport fuel from storage points to gas stations. The UK is facing a severe shortage of truck drivers due to the pandemic, an exodus of foreign workforce post-Brexit, an aging workforce and poor working conditions in the UK. 

The shortage of drivers has impacted the food supply chain as well which could result in price rises just ahead of Christmas.  

Pandemic adds to the Brexit woes

The coronavirus pandemic outbreak coincided with the UK’s exit from European Union (EU). The UK withdrew from EU at 23:00 hours on January 31, 2020. It was around similar time that the coronavirus pandemic, which is believed to have originated in China’s Wuhan province, was fast spreading across the world. With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, many drivers decided to head back to their home countries. 

Moreover, Brexit led to the creation of new immigration policies, new bureaucracy and decline in the value of the pound against the euro. The changes have not just made working in the UK less attractive for EU nationals but are even causing a hindrance in their return. 

According to the Annual Population Survey, there were 16,000 fewer EU nationals working as Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) drivers in the year ending March 2021, than in the previous year. The UK had also lost 72,000 truck drivers between the second quarter of 2019 and the same period in 2021. 

The revised tax rules have also made it more expensive for drivers from other countries in Europe to work or be employed in the UK.

Shortage of qualified drivers

As per a Road Haulage Association (RHA) survey, there is a shortage of more than 100,000 qualified truck drivers in the UK. The pandemic also led to a huge backlog in HGV driver tests. 

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency of the government also informed that there were more than 54,000 applications pending for licenses.

The industry reportedly had warned the prime minister in June this year that there were 25,000 fewer candidates passing their test in 2020 than in 2019.

Involvement of army

To mitigate the shortage of truck drivers caused mainly due to the pandemic and Brexit, the government is planning to offer temporary visas to 5,000 foreign truck drivers and 5,500 poultry workers till Christmas to limit the disruption. 

Additionally, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson could consider calling in the British army to deliver fuel to petrol stations running dry across the country. However, Environment Secretary George Eustice asserted that the shortage of drivers was “not a huge problem”.

Around a million letters might also be sent to HGV drivers with a license to encourage them to return back to the industry apart from training 4000 new truck drivers. 

Appeal to not panic buy

“The only reason we don’t have petrol on forecourts is people are buying petrol when they don’t need it,” said Eustice. Transport minister Shapps also has appealed for calm holding panic buying by the citizens responsible for the current shortage. 

Shapps further alleged that the panic was manufactured by some hauliers’ association. “They’re desperate to have more European drivers undercutting British salaries,” said the transport minister. 

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland which has been less reliant on drivers from the European Union has been less affected by those workers being no longer available.

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