A number of petrol stations across the UK have been forced to close due to a lack of fuel. BP and Tesco have both announced the closures due to disruption in deliveries of petrol and diesel, brought on by a shortage of HGV drivers.
ExxonMobil said a “small number” of its 200 Tesco Alliance forecourts had been impacted, and it was working to “optimise supplies”.
BP has also seen a small number of its sites close, and is reducing its fuel deliveries to forecourts in an attempt to ration supplies.
It said it has two-thirds its normal forecourt stock levels required for smooth operations – although this could fall rapidly in the event of panic buying.
Why are petrol stations closing?
As with the empty shelves in the supermarkets, retailers say the problem is rooted in disruption to the supply chain caused by a chronic post-Brexit shortage in the number of HGV drivers.
The Road Haulage Association (RHA) has said Britain needs as many as 100,000 more drivers to keep shops stocked and supplies moving.
Since the UK left the European Union, in which HGV drivers can move across borders, many non-UK nationals driving trucks have opted to work solely within EU countries, leaving logistics firms stuggling to find workers.
The situation has been exacerbated by the Covid pandemic, in which many more non-UK nationals returned to their home country and have been unable or unwilling to return due to restrictions on cross-border travel.
The Covid-related closure of test centres for many months has also worsened the shortage of qualified drivers, although the Department for Transport recently changed the rules to speed up the process of qualification.
The RHA says 30,000 HGV tests couldn’t go ahead last year because of the pandemic, resulting in 25,000 fewer candidates passing the test in 2020 than in 2019.
“The single biggest issue is staff shortages, with Brexit, Covid and wider economic conditions all contributing factors,” says the Institute for Government.
Is there a shortage of fuel?
Both the government and the oil firms say there is no shortage of fuel itself, just the distribution of it around the country.
The forecourt closures are due to “delays in the supply chain,” BP said, and there is no issue with supplies at refineries.
A government spokesperson said: “There is no shortage of fuel in the UK, and people should continue to buy fuel as normal.
“We recognise the challenges facing industry and have already taken action to increase the supply of HGV drivers, including streamlining the process for new drivers and increasing the number of driving tests.
“We continue to closely monitor labour supply and work with sector leaders to understand how we can best ease particular pinch points.”