As queues form at gas stations, Britain vows to tackle trucker shortage
- BP is closing gas stations
- Queues form at some petrol stations – Reuters reporters
- Britain to step up testing of truck drivers
- Carriers: there is no quick fix
LONDON, Sept. 24 (Reuters) – Britain on Friday pledged to do everything in its power to solve a truck driver shortage that has closed gas stations and strained supermarket supply chains, but the transportation industry warned that there was no quick fix.
Just as the world’s fifth-largest economy emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, soaring natural gas prices in Europe and a shortage of truck drivers after Brexit have left Britain in the throes of soaring gas prices. energy and a possible tightening of the food supply.
BP (BP.L) has temporarily closed some of its 1,200 service stations in the UK due to a lack of unleaded and diesel qualities, which it blamed on a shortage of drivers. ExxonMobil’s Esso (XOM.N) said a small number of its 200 Tesco Alliance retail locations were also affected. Read more
Queues formed at some gas stations in London and Kent County in southern England on Friday as motorists rushed to refuel, Reuters reporters said.
For months, supermarkets and farmers have warned that a shortage of truck drivers is straining supply chains, making it harder to get goods to shelves.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said there was a global truck driver shortage after COVID halted truck driving tests, so Britain was doubling the number of tests. When asked if the government would relax visa rules, he said the government would look at all options.
“We’ll do whatever it takes,” Shapps told Sky News. “We will move heaven and earth to do all we can to make sure shortages are alleviated with heavy truck drivers.”
“We should see it subside pretty quickly,” he said.
Carriers and logistics companies have warned there is no silver bullet and any changes to testing or visas would likely be too late to alleviate pre-Christmas shortages as retailers pile up months in advance.
The government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted there would be no going back to the 1970s, when Britain was presented by the allies as “Europe’s sick man” with three-day weeks, energy shortages and rampant inflation.
But as ministers urged the public not to panic, some of Britain’s biggest supermarkets have warned that a shortage of truck drivers could lead to this before Christmas.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Johnson, whom he had met in New York, had asked him for an “emergency” deal to supply a food item that is lacking in Britain, although the British embassy has disputed Bolsonaro’s account. Read more
Such is the pressure on the supply chain, McDonald’s (MCD.N) had to remove milkshakes and bottled beverages from the menu of its UK restaurants in August and chicken chain Nando’s ran out of chicken.
Suppliers have warned there could be more gasoline shortages due to a lack of drivers to transport fuel from refineries to retail outlets.
The trucking industry body, the Road Haulage Association, has called on the government to allow short-term visas for international drivers to enter Britain and fill the void, while UK drivers are being trained to the future.
“It’s a huge challenge,” Rod McKenzie, RHA policy manager, told Reuters. In the short term, he said international drivers could help, although it might be too late to help Christmas, and that in the longer term, the industry needed better wages and better terms to attract the workers.
“It’s hard work. We Brits don’t help truckers like Europeans and Americans do by giving them decent facilities,” he said.
The UK road transport industry says it needs around 100,000 more drivers after 25,000 returned to Europe before Brexit and the pandemic has halted the process of qualifying new workers.
Shapps, who said the driver shortage was not due to Brexit, said COVID-19 was exacerbating the problem as Britain was unable to test 40,000 drivers during lockdowns.
“It’s a bit of a global problem, so it’s not immediately obvious that opening visas would really solve the problem,” he told Times Radio.
Additional reporting by Gerhard Mey, Kate Holton, Michael Holden and Paul Sandle; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Toby Chopra
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