Up to 100 petrol stations running out of fuel as drivers swarm forecourts

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Queues at a Shell garage in Taplow, near Maidenhead, Berkshire. Drivers are being urged by the Government to
On Friday petrol station forecourts had huge queues as people started panic-buying amid fears of fuel shortages. (PA)

Up to 100 BP petrol stations are running out of fuel as drivers swarmed to forecourts despite the government insisting there was no shortage.

Several companies which run petrol stations including Esso, BP and Tesco have warned they were being "impacted" by the shortage of HGV drivers which is making it increasingly hard to get fuel to their forecourts.

BP said on Friday between 50 to 100 of their 1,200 forecourts had run out of at least one type of fuel and 20 were completely closed.

After the news of BP and Tesco were struggling to keep some of their forecourts fully stocked people began swarming petrol stations to get fuel.

Motorists queue for petrol at a Sainsbury's service station in Tonbridge, southeast England on September 24, 2021. - The UK government today urged the public against panic-buying as some petrol stations closed pumps due to a lack of lorry drivers to deliver fuel. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP) (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)
In Tonbridge, southeast England, motorists queued on Friday morning to fill up their tanks. (Getty)

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Photos from Maidenhead and Leeds showed cars trying to reach the pumps.

The problems at petrol stations is just the latest sector of the economy to be hit by the shortage of lorry drivers.

The UK currently lacks around 100,000 HGV drivers and businesses are piling pressure on the government to ease immigration rules to allow more drivers to come to the UK.

Senior ministers were understood to be meeting on Friday afternoon to discuss possible solutions to the shortage of HGV drivers.

Watch: Grant Shapps: I will do whatever is required to counter lorry driver shortage

Ministers and businesses alike have been keen to stress there is no shortage of petrol, the problem is transporting fuel from depots to forecourts.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps urged motorists to "carry on as normal" on Friday morning hoping to avoid panic buying.

He told Sky News on Friday: "The advice would be to carry on as normal, and that is what BP is saying as well.

"They describe it on the average day that they have a handful of petrol stations that they had to close out of twelve or thirteen hundred."

Closed pumps at a Co-op Texaco garage in Maidenhead, Berkshire. Drivers are being urged by the Government to
BP said a "handful" of its filling stations are closed due to a lack of fuel available, while Esso owner ExxonMobil also said a "small number" of its Tesco Alliance petrol forecourts have been impacted. (PA)

Read more: Energy bill crisis: Britons urged 'don't panic buy' as fears mount of 'winter of discontent'

He added: "The others – Asda, Morrisons and other supermarkets – are saying they have no problems, as have other petrol companies."

The AA has said that most of the UK’s forecourts are working as they should amid worries over supply of petrol at some sites.

“There is no shortage of fuel and thousands of forecourts are operating normally with just a few suffering temporary supply chain problems,” said AA president Edmund King.

“Fridays and the weekend always tend to be busier on forecourts as drivers either combine filling up with shopping runs, prepare for weekend trips or refuel for the start of the new working week.

Queues at a Sainsbury's Petrol Station in Colton, Leeds. Drivers are being urged by the Government to
A supermarket garage was also inundated with customers in Colton, Leeds. (PA)

“Drivers should not fill up outside their normal routines because, even if the occasional petrol station is temporarily closed, others just down the road will be open.

“It is now clear that there have been occasional delays over recent weeks that have been managed with hardly anyone noticing. This was a manageable problem.”

Shapps said the problem wasn't new and blamed it on several reasons, including "systemic" problems within the haulage industry as well as the COVID pandemic.

He said he would "move heaven and earth" to remedy the situation, telling the BBC’s Today programme: "I’ll do anything which actually helps. The big query actually is where is the blockage? What we do know is that there are a lot of people who have their HGV licences but many of which will have lapsed to come out of the market, often because there has been cheaper European labour.

"We want to get those people back in."

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 23: Customers purchase fuel at a BP petrol station on September 23, 2021 in London, England. BP has announced that its ability to transport fuel from refineries to its branded petrol station forecourts is being impacted by the ongoing shortage of HGV drivers and as a result, it will be rationing deliveries to ensure continuity of supply. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
BP has announced that its ability to transport fuel from refineries to its petrol station forecourts is being impacted by the ongoing shortage of HGV drivers so it will be rationing deliveries. (Getty)

Shapps said the government was trying to entice European lorry drivers back to the UK but denied that Brexit was to blame.

He told Sky News: "I’ve seen people point to Brexit as if it is the culprit here. In fact, they are wrong.

"Not only are there very large and even larger shortages in other EU countries like Poland and Germany, which clearly can’t be to do with Brexit, but actually because of Brexit I’ve been able to change the law and alter the way our driving tests operate in a way I could not have done if we were still part of the EU.

"So, Brexit actually has provided part of the solution of giving more slots available for HGV tests and there are a lot more – twice as many – tests available now than before the pandemic, a large proportion of those we’ve only been able to do because we are no longer in the EU."

He added: "COVID is the main reason. It is a global problem and Europe is hit particularly bad."

Shapps said there were "systemic" problems within the haulage sector that needed addressing and that there was a need to make it a "more attractive industry".

He told BBC Breakfast: "Traditionally, this has been – and these are extraordinary figures – a 99% white male profession, average age 55, conditions not great, truck stops not great.

"And the salaries have been suppressed over many years by people coming in and driving and being prepared to do that at lower wages.

"So we need to resolve the systemic problems as well and that’s why, as I say, we are doing everything we possible can to open up the capacity and bring more people in.”

He told Sky: "We need to make this a more attractive industry to go into and the solution to that is to have those slightly higher wages and better conditions at truck stops and the like as well."

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