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Why 90% of fuel pumps in Britain are running empty?

In a scenario which has been described as ‘carnage’, many petrol pump owners across Britain have had to shut down. People are panic buying fuel and there have been queues stretching for miles.

In an interview with BBC, Oil 4 Wales director Colin Owens said that the daily demand for fuel has risen to 100,000 litres from 20,000 to 30,000 litres. On the other hand, other oil companies like Shell, ExxonMobil and Greenergy have stressed that there is no paucity of petrol and the scarcity is temporary.

The main reason for this panic buying is the shortage of lorry drivers – the country needs 100,000 more HGV drivers (heavy goods vehicle) at the moment. Their absence has created problems for several industries like supermarkets and fast-food chains. Most of these drivers quit because of difficult living conditions in the UK after Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic.

To solve the issue, the government and fuel companies have urged people to stop panic buying. “We need some calm. Please don’t panic buy: if people drain the network then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Petrol Retailers Association’s executive director Gordon Balmer told Reuters.

The government has also said that they’ll deploy military tankers and offer temporary visas to 5000 lorry drivers. They also plan to train 4000 people to become HGV drivers.

While the plan seems good on paper, EU drivers union has refused to help Britain out of the mess they had created for themselves. “The EU workers we speak to will not go to the UK for a short-term visa to help the UK out of the shit they created themselves. In the short term, I think that will be a dead end. I think some kind of Marshall plan would be needed to drag the whole industry back to the surface,” Edwin Atema, the head of research and development at Netherlands-based FNV union told BBC Radio 4.

“It’s not like you can offer a visa, offer a good payment, and the issue will be solved. There is a whole range of issues behind [it]. Even the use of toilet facilities in the UK, and of course the rest of Europe, is an issue,” he added.

Due to the shortage, there have been extremely chaotic scenes at some petrol stations. In a tweet, Professor Danny Altmann of Imperial College recounted an experience. “I’m now officially in post-Brexit wild-West. No HGV drivers, no petrol: queued most of the morning for petrol. Got near the front and they said none left. Man behind me was furious and started punching the guard. Became a melee of 8-10 men on the ground, punching and kicking,” he wrote.

Whether or not the crisis will resolve itself in the coming days, only time will tell. For now, it is a big challenge for Boris Johnson and his government.


1. EU lorry drivers will not help Britain ease its fuel crisis, union says (The Guardian)

2. EXPLAINED: How A Lack Of Truck Drivers Has Sparked A Fuel Crisis In UK (News 18)

3. Fuel supply: Why are there long queues for petrol in UK? (BBC)

4. Panic buying leaves up to 90% of fuel pumps dry in major British cities (The Indian Express)

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