Britain is expected to announce plans to issue temporary visas to truck drivers to alleviate an acute labour shortage that has led to fuel rationing at some filling stations and warnings from retailers of significant disruption in the run-up to Christmas.
As queues started forming outside filling stations early on Saturday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office said it was looking at temporary measures to address the shortage of heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers.
Newspapers reported that the government would allow up to 5,000 foreign drivers into Britain on short-term visas, a measure that logistics companies and retailers have demanded for months but which the government had previously ruled out.
The UK’s Road Haulage Association (RHA) says Britain needs 100,000 more drivers if it is to meet demand. The driver shortage has been caused partly by Brexit and COVID-19, and the loss of about a year of driver training and testing.
Ministers have cautioned against panic buying, and oil companies say there is no shortage of supplies, merely problems delivering the fuel to the gas stations.
However, long lines of vehicles have begun gathering at petrol stations to fill up after BP said it had to close some of its outlets due to the driver shortages.
Some Shell stations have also reported pumps running dry while ExxonMobil’s Esso has also said a small number of its 200 Tesco Alliance retail sites had also been impacted in some way.
EG Group, which runs hundreds of forecourts across Britain, said on Friday it would impose a purchase limit of 30 pounds ($41) per customer for fuel due to the “unprecedented customer demand”.