The UK’s nationwide lack of truck drivers has forced oil giant BP to close some of its petrol stations as the shortage crisis affects the retailing industry too.
BP said on Thursday it was having to temporarily shut down up to 100 of its petrol stations due to lack of HGV drivers, hours after Small Business Minister Paul Scully cautioned citizens not to panic buy amid fears of food shortages.
The oil giant had experienced the same transportation problems and it says the issue does not arise from shortage of oil but the lack of drivers who get the fuel to the stations.
Some drivers queued at some petrol stations in London and Kent on Friday to fill up their fuel tanks.
Alongside the oil industry, the country’s retailing sector is also struggling to deliver goods to the supermarket shelves.
Tesco, the biggest supermarket chain in the UK, told the government officials it needs 800 HGV drivers.
Tesco fears that the dearth of truck drivers would lead to panic-buying in the run-up to Christmas if no action was taken.
“Our concern is that the pictures of empty shelves will get 10 times worse by Christmas and then we’ll get panic buying,” the Tesco executive said.
Tesco offers incentives, including £1000($1370) cash bonus for new drivers, to recruit more drivers.
Increasing the price of natural gas has affected energy, chemicals and steel producers and strained supply chains which were already suffering from insufficient labour and the tumult of Brexit.
After gas prices triggered a carbon dioxide shortage, Britain was forced to extend emergency state support to avert a shortage of poultry and meat.
Supermarket shelves of carbonated drinks and water were left empty in some places and turkey producers have warned that families could be left without their traditional turkey lunch at Christmas if the carbon dioxide shortage continues.
Supermarkets and farmers have called on Britain to ease shortages of labour in key areas - particularly of truckers, processing and picking - which have strained the food supply chain.
Labour shortage after Brexit
The transport industry needs 90,000 drivers to ease the shortage of HGV drivers after Brexit made it harder to work in the UK for European drivers.
In addition to Brexit, the coronavirus pandemic also prevented new drivers from qualifying to get working permission.
"My business has about 100 HGV drivers short, and that is making it increasingly very, very difficult to service our shops," said Richard Walker, managing director at supermarket Iceland.
Walker also added the deliveries were being cancelled.
"It is a concern and as we look to build stock as an industry, to work towards our bumper time of year, Christmas, we're now facing this shortage at the worst possible time. I am worried," he said.
Representatives of retail and transport industries in the UK have previously written a joint statement to the Business Secretary in August demanding solutions for the lorry driver shortage.
The letter has warned against the prolonged crisis which has “increasingly unsustainable pressure on retailers and their supply chains.
The National Farmers' Union has also written a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson by asking urgently to introduce a new visa system to help tackle labour shortages across the supply chain.