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UK ?fuel crisis? easing
The UK government has begun drafting about 200 servicemen and women from the Army and RAF to help deliver fuel from depots to forecourts in a bid to ease the ?fuel crisis? that began on 23 September after BP temporarily closed a number of forecourts due to a shortage of tanker drivers. A spate of panic buying followed, despite government assurances that there wasn?t a shortage of fuel at refineries, resulting in long queues of motorists waiting to fill up and many forecourts across the country subsequently running out of fuel as deliveries were unable to meet demand.
Although the government reported early signs of pressure starting to ease at pumps in late September, the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) reported on 2 October that petrol and diesel supplies remained critical in London and south-east England, with one in five forecourts still without fuel.
The shortage of HGV drivers, which has impacted many sectors of the UK economy including supermarkets and fuel retailers, has been blamed on a number of factors including COVID-19, Brexit, an ageing workforce and tax changes. In a bid to help alleviate fears that the shortage could get worse in the run-up to Christmas, the UK government announced a temporary visa scheme in late September, allowing some 5,000 lorry drivers to work in the UK up to Christmas Eve. In addition, Ministry of Defence examiners are to be brought in to help deal with a backlog of HGV licence tests and free intensive training courses are to be made available to train 3,000 people to become HGV drivers, with a further 1,000 to be trained through courses funded by the UK government?s adult education budget. The government is also understood to be writing to nearly one million drivers who hold an HGV licence to encourage them to return to the industry.
According to the Road Haulage Association (RHA), there is now a shortage of more than 100,000 qualified drivers in the UK. This number includes thousands of drivers from European Union (EU) member states who were previously living and working in the UK prior to Brexit. Even before the COVID pandemic struck, the overall estimated shortage was about 60,000 drivers.