Up to 90% of British fuel stations ran dry across major English cities on Monday after panic buying deepened a supply chain crisis triggered by a shortage of truckers that retailers are warning could batter the world’s fifth-largest economy.
A dire post-Brexit shortage of truck drivers in Britain has sown chaos through supply chains in everything from food to fuel, raising the spectre of disruptions and price rises in the run up to Christmas.
Just days after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government spent millions of pounds to avert a food shortage due to a spike in prices for natural gas and its byproduct, carbon dioxide, ministers repeatedly asked people to refrain from panic buying.
But queues of dozens of cars snaked back from petrol stations across the land on Sunday, swallowing up supplies and forcing many gas stations to simply close. Pumps across British cities were either closed or had signs saying fuel was unavailable, Reuters reporters said.
“Some of our members, large groups with a portfolio of sites, report 50% are dry as of yesterday, some even report as many as 90% are dry as of yesterday,” Brian Madderson, chairman of the Petrol Retailers Association told Sky.
The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) represents independent fuel retailers who now account for 65% of all UK forecourts.
“So you can see it is quite acute,” Madderson said. “Monday morning is going to start pretty dry.”
BP said on Sunday that nearly a third of its British petrol stations had run out of the two main grades of fuel as panic buying forced the government to suspend competition laws and allow firms to work together to ease shortages.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the suspension would allow firms to share information and coordinate their response.
“This step will allow government to work constructively with fuel producers, suppliers, hauliers and retailers to ensure that disruption is minimised as far as possible,” the business department said in a statement.
The government on Sunday announced a plan to issue temporary visas for 5,000 foreign truck drivers.
But business leaders have warned the government’s plan is a short-term fix and will not solve an acute labour shortage.