A fuel shortage is probably one of the many things that critics predicted when the U.K. government decided to separate from the European Union. Otherwise known as “Brexit,” the move created a complex set of issues for commerce across Europe. One of the most recent problems is a shortage of fuel faced by countless Britians.
The Petrol Retailers Association, which represents over 5,000 stations, said that about 3,600 members reported running out of fuel. While the rest of the members were “partly dry and running out soon.” With so many stations running dry, a full-blown fuel shortage has hit the U.K.
Association chairman Brian Madderson stated that their members are running out of fuel due to “panic buying, pure and simple.”
“There is plenty of fuel in this country, but it is in the wrong place for the motorists,” he told the BBC. “It is still in the terminals and the refineries.”
Gas stations became overrun with extended lines of cars over the weekend. Some customers waited for hours. Naturally, people waiting in long tines during high-stress circumstances such as a fuel shortage can lead to problems. London police had to be called to one gas station to address a fight that broke out. At least one person was arrested for assault.
Why are U.K. gas stations running out of fuel?
A major reason gas stations are running out of fuel is that the transportation industry reports that the U.K. has a significant shortage of truck drivers. The trucker shortage is happening because of several major factors including the global pandemic, drivers aging out of the profession, and many foreign truck drivers leaving Britain because of its departure from the European Union.
With fewer truckers, less fuel is being transported to gas stations to resupply them. This problem is not due to gaps in fuel production. That likely means if the U.K. can fix the trucker shortage, the fuel shortage will be resolved swiftly as well.
It is expected that the United States and Germany will experience a shortage of truck drivers as well. Though, the problem is exponentially worse in Britain due to the additional factors mentioned. In addition to the fuel shortage, Britain’s supermarkets have also seen deliveries fall off sharply, causing bare shelves.
With the public in an uproar, the U.K. government announced that it would issue emergency visas for foreign truckers to remedy the supply issue in time for the holidays. The government aims to give 5,000 visas, with each one good for three months starting in October.
Critics from the British Retail Consortium believe the action from the U.K. government is “too little, too late.”
Ruby McGregor-Smith, president of the Confederation of British Industry, added that the move was akin to “the equivalent of throwing a thimble of water on a bonfire.”
The U.K. government may need to do much more than issue temporary visas if they want a long-term solution to the fuel shortage problem. The United States government will likely look at this situation and take away a few lessons so that the problem does not become as severe in America. A fuel shortage on top of the global chip shortage would be a devastating double-whammy for the American economy.