10 days to avoid Christmas disruptions, notify retailers of driver shortages

Retailers have warned the government it has only 10 days to avoid a “significant disruption” over Christmas due to the shortage of heavy truck drivers.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has warned that disruption of holiday preparations will be “inevitable” if progress is not made in addressing the shortfall of around 90,000 truck drivers.

The stern warning came as BP, Esso and Tesco gasoline forecourts were hit by difficulties securing gasoline deliveries.

BP said about 20 of its 1,200 gas stations have been closed due to a lack of available fuel, with between 50 and 100 sites affected by the loss of at least one grade of fuel.

A “small number” of Tesco charging stations have also been affected, said Esso owner ExxonMobil, which manages the sites.

The Transportation Secretary has tried to dissuade drivers from panicking by buying gasoline, although there have been chaotic scenes at gas stations across the country.

Grant Shapps said on Friday that motorists should “continue as usual”.

“The advice would be to continue as usual, and that’s also what BP is saying,” he told Sky News.

Queues started forming outside some service stations in the UK on Friday morning.

Photos of Maidenhead and Leeds showed cars trying to reach the pumps.

Senior ministers are said to have met on Friday afternoon to discuss possible solutions to the shortage of heavy truck drivers.

Queues at a Sainsbury’s petrol station in Colton, Leeds on Friday morning (Danny Lawson / PA)

Andrew Opie, Director of Food and Sustainability at BRC, said: “Truck drivers are the glue that holds our supply chains together.

“Without them, we cannot move goods from farms to warehouses and stores.

“Currently the UK faces a deficit of around 90,000 heavy truck drivers and consumers are paying the price.

“Unless a solution is found within the next 10 days, it is inevitable that we will see some major disruption as Christmas approaches. “

On the BBC’s Today program, Mr Shapps pledged he would do what is necessary to ensure gasoline reaches drivers.

“I will move heaven and earth to do whatever is necessary to ensure that the trucks continue to carry our goods and services and our gasoline across the country,” he said.

Mr Shapps denied that Brexit was the cause of the recent shortage of truck drivers in the UK, arguing that separation from the European Union had helped the government respond.

“Not only are there very large and even bigger shortages in other EU countries like Poland and Germany, which clearly has nothing to do with Brexit, but in fact, thanks to the Brexit, I was able to change the law and change the way our driving tests work in ways that I couldn’t have done if we were still part of the EU, ”he said.

“So Brexit actually provided part of the solution by making more slots available for heavy-duty (heavy-duty) testing and there is much more, twice as much testing available now than before the pandemic. , a large part of those we ‘We were only able to do it because we are no longer in the EU.

In a meeting a week ago, BP reportedly told the government the company was struggling to get fuel to its forecourt.

Its UK retail chief Hanna Hofer called the situation “bad, very bad,” according to an ITV News report.

BP had “two-thirds of the normal forecourt stock levels required for proper operation,” she said, adding that the level “was dropping rapidly”.

An oil tanker delivers fuel to a Shell petrol station in Liverpool which has been closed due to lack of fuel (Peter Byrne / PA)
An oil tanker delivers fuel to a Shell petrol station in Liverpool which has been closed due to lack of fuel (Peter Byrne / PA)

The AA said most forecourts across the UK were functioning as they should amid concerns over petrol supplies at some sites.

“There is no shortage of fuel and thousands of forecourts are functioning normally, only a few with temporary supply chain problems,” said AA President Edmund King.

“Fridays and weekends always tend to be busier in the forecourt, as drivers combine either refueling with groceries, getting ready for weekend trips or refueling for the start of the new. week of work.

“Drivers shouldn’t refuel outside of their normal routines because while the occasional gas station is temporarily closed, others just down the road will be open.

“It is now clear that there have been occasional delays over the past few weeks which have been handled without anyone noticing. It was a manageable problem.

On Thursday, Rod McKenzie of the Road Haulage Association trade association said the government had allowed the driver shortage to worsen gradually in recent months.

Queues at a Shell garage in Taplow, near Maidenhead, Berkshire (Jonathan Brady / PA)
Queues at a Shell garage in Taplow, near Maidenhead, Berkshire (Jonathan Brady / PA)

“We have a shortage of 100,000 (drivers),” he told the BBC’s Newsnight.

“When you think that everything we get in Britain comes in the back of a truck, be it fuel, food or clothing or whatever, at some point, if it is there are no drivers to drive these trucks, the trucks are not moving and we are not getting our things.

He added, “I don’t think we are talking about absolutely no fuel or food or anything like that, people shouldn’t be panicking to buy food or fuel or anything, that is not what it is about.

“It’s about stockouts, shortages, a disruption of a normal supply chain.”

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