UK Fuel Shortages

UK fuel shortages - refuelling

From footage of miles-long queues at petrol stations across the country to images of people filling up jerry cans - and even plastic bottles - with petrol, the last week has seen fuel shortages and panic buying sweep the UK.

But what’s going on and what will happen next? Here’s everything you need to know.

How did this happen?

So what was the trigger for this current crisis?

A major cause was the warning from BP that it was going to have to temporarily close some of its petrol stations last week due to a shortage of lorry drivers.

It insisted that only a ‘handful’ of stations would be affected by what was a supply chain issue caused by ‘industry wide driver shortages’.

Esso also revealed that a small number of its Tesco Alliance petrol stations had been affected, but other chains like Morrisons, Asda, Sainsburys and the Co-op insisted that they had no issues.

This driver shortage is affecting other areas of our lives, as you’ll have noticed if you’ve been shopping at supermarkets recently and noticed emptier-than-usual shelves.

There have been HGV driver shortages across Europe but with many European drivers leaving the UK because of Brexit, the impact has been more significant here.

How did it turn into a crisis?

If you recall the start of the pandemic last year you’ll remember the panic buying of toilet rolls that left those shelves bare, despite supermarkets insisting there was no shortage of them available.

That sense of panic returned as soon as BP made its announcement about some of its petrol stations.

The extensive media coverage it received led millions of drivers across the country to go and fill up their cars in fear of an impending shortage of fuel that might leave them unable to drive.

As tends to happen, the coverage of the long queues only led to even more drivers joining them for fear of missing out.

This has turned a mini-crisis into a full-blown one, with the Petrol Retailers Association saying on Monday that two thirds of its 5,500 independent outlets were now out of fuel and the rest not far off joining them, with the blame laid firmly on ‘panic buying’.

What happens next?

As with the toilet paper crisis of 2020, it may take some time for the impact of this panic to pass and for supplies to return to normal levels, though the shortage of drivers may slow this down.

The UK Government has announced that the Army has been put on standby to help ease the crisis with military tanker drivers trained to deliver fuel to where it’s needed.

Meanwhile, competition law has been suspended for oil firms to allow them to work together and share information to resolve these issues.

The Government is also offering temporary visas to foreign fuel tanker and food lorry drivers to try and help resolve the fuel crisis as well as prevent it being quickly followed by a turkey crisis ahead of Christmas.

So the lesson from all of this is - don’t panic.

Leave the jerry cans at home, only fill up when you need to - or maybe get an electric car.

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