The petrol crisis – what exactly happened?

Oct 22, 2021 | All About Cars | 0 comments

Your car is a lifeline. If you think you’re going to be without it for a while, naturally you panic. And that’s exactly what happened with the recent petrol crisis. 

How did the crisis start?

This all began when BP announced on the 23rd of September that it would have to ‘temporarily’ close a handful of its petrol stations because of a lack of drivers. As a result, people spiralled and long queues started emerging out of petrol stations with fears that fuel may run out.

What’s caused the fuel shortage?

The UK has been the worst-hit compared to other countries in Europe, and there are many reasons why. It isn’t so much a case that there is a lack of fuel, as there’s plenty available according to oil companies, but rather a lack of HGV drivers being able to supply it to forecourts. There’s an estimated shortage of 100,000 HGV drivers due to multiple factors.

As a result of Brexit, there are stricter controls on imports and exports, delays at the border as well as additional customs and administration costs as well as regulatory checks.  

European HGV drivers also headed back to their home countries as a result of Brexit which ended free movement and stripped workers of their rights to come to Britain on a permanent basis. 

Not only that, but the Coronavirus pandemic has contributed to the driver shortages as working conditions have been a struggle, meaning a driver backlog.

What’s happening now?

The petrol crisis has eased slightly, with members of the military helping to restock fuel stations and drive fuel lorries, especially in the London and South East areas which have been the worst hit.

The government is also providing temporary visas for over 5,000 overseas drivers, including 3,000 immediate visas for tanker drivers. Only 127 Europeans have applied for the scheme, and this could be blamed on low pay and bad facilities. The process for acquiring a HGV drivers licence has also been sped up.

There’s also been a suspension of the competition law between oil firms, so companies can band together and help the locations most in need.

There’s also concern that critical workers will have difficulty accessing fuel, which might have an impact on essential services because the government hasn’t stated any measures to prioritise getting it to them.

Overall, according to The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), which represents roughly 5,500 of the UK’s 8,000 filling stations, the worst-affected areas have experienced a “marginal” improvement but are still facing a “difficult” time.