Hundreds of closed petrol stations and long queues at open refueling stations: it is an atmosphere of crisis in England. The shortage of truckers, which for weeks has reduced food deliveries to supermarkets and restaurants, has now hit gas stations and risks creating panic in the country, despite the government’s call for calm.
Large groups such as Esso, BP and Tesco have warned that non-deliveries of supplies have forced them to close numerous “dry” service areas.
Transport Minister Grant Shapps assured today that he will “move heaven and earth” to solve the problem and that he could use the military to solve the crisis in the supply chain. The government could also grant hundreds of entry visas and temporary work permits to EU citizens.
The Road Haulage Association accused the government of “total inaction”. The industry association warned over a month ago that Britain urgently needs 100,000 truck drivers due to the “vacuum” caused by Brexit and partly also by the pandemic. Supermarket chains, shops and importers have joined the appeal in recent weeks, warning of increasingly empty shelves as the problem escalates and coming to bleak predictions of a “ruined Christmas” for British consumers. Government to grant at least 10 thousand temporary visas to EU citizens, given that thousands of mainly Romanian and Polish road hauliers lost the right to work after Brexit and returned home, exacerbating an already critical situation.
British truckers wanted
The government rejected the request, stating that companies must train British staff and not continue to rely on foreign truck drivers. Shapps, however, had intervened, speeding up the procedures for obtaining a driver’s license, increasing the number of driving tests and raising the maximum period that a truck driver can spend driving from nine to ten hours. Measures that did not solve the problem.
Seasonal visas are on the way
So now, faced with the queues at the gas stations, the government seems to have changed its mind. While assuring motorists that “there is no reason for alarm” and that “the problem will certainly be solved in a short time”, the Minister of Transport has admitted for the first time that the option of seasonal or temporary visas will be explored to allow EU truck drivers to work in Great Britain. “I’m not ruling out anything,” Shapps said. The Labor opposition has criticized the government for not admitting the seriousness of the problem despite numerous warnings from the sector and for its strategy of “putting band-aids on an open wound”.
Reserves are falling
BP and other companies in the sector have called for an urgent meeting with the government to outline a strategy, warning that the filling stations “have two thirds of the usual reserves of gasoline and that these too are falling precipitously”. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said that “there are no shortages of gasoline.” This is true, but not very reassuring: it is not fuel that is in short supply, but the truck drivers who can deliver it to their destination.