Towards the end of the fuel shortage in the UK?

The worrying fuel shortage in the UK seems endless. This nightmarish situation which prevents the British from refueling, linked to the lack of manpower, created both socio-economic and political tensions.
Pumps of an out-of-service gas station in London

The origin of the crisis

It all started on September 23, when the company BP warned of the closure of several stations due to the lack of drivers for the HGV trucks importing fuel. From then on, the situation only got worse: after this news, motorists rushed to fill up their tanks and thus contributed to create a fuel shortage. This supply problem is not new to the UK. In recent months, food companies have also complained about a shortage of certain products.

The main reason for the fuel supply problem is the lack of manpower, which is becoming increasingly scarce. The corona virus pandemic is a contributing factor : many drivers of foreign origin returned home, unable to work due to travel restrictions, and never returned again to the UK. The repeated lockdowns also prevented thousands of potential drivers from getting their HGV license.

It should also be remembered that the United Kingdom is an island, which makes it more difficult to find drivers who could help temporarily and urgently to fight the current tense situation.

Moreover, the Brexit also had an impact on this crisis. Many European drivers – representing a large percentage of drivers in the country – have been forced to leave the UK, because of the new immigration rules: Britain lost a lot of manpower at once. In total, it is estimated that the UK lost 16,000 truck drivers in one year.

Even if the problem is more accentuated on the fuel shortage -some regions have 90% of their stations closed due to the lack of fuel-, the food field is also impacted.

Here is the result of a lack of drivers: long queues and gasoline shortages across the Channel.

The consequences of this crisis

Demand influences price. The British have therefore seen gasoline prices rise, which is nothing new since fuel prices have been rising for the past 8 years.

There is also the question of who has priority: should a certain category of people, such as health personnel, be given priority? What is certain is that this shortage of gasoline has caused a lot of disputes and tension in the service stations, which needed to fill up especially for primary needs such as going to work.

The British government has also taken the initiative to soften the immigration rules and grant more than 10,000 temporary visas until Christmas to prevent shortages during the holiday season. In addition, the government is planning to train about 4,000 truck drivers and accelerate the training time as soon as possible, as this takes a considerable amount of time.

What to expect in the future?

According to the British government there is no shortage of fuel, only a problem of delivery caused by the lack of manpower.

The British army was deployed in early October to supply gas stations to calm the situation. Nearly 400 soldiers have been trained to drive tank trucks to the affected gas stations. However, this is only a temporary solution.

It is hoped that the measures applied by the government – visas and training – will be effective and that the end of year celebrations will not be disrupted by similar events.


Shortage: pénurie

Supply: approvisionner/ réserve

Manpower: main d’oeuvre

Lack: manque, pénurie

Soften: adoucir, se montrer plus indulgent

Tank truck: camion-citerne

HGV licence: permis poids lourd

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