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A shortage of drivers has disrupted fuel deliveries, with some gas stations closing, and queues forming across the United Kingdom and panic buying setting in
Rose Jaillard had traveled all the way from Luton, a town 50 km away, before she was given priority to fill up at a central London petrol station.
"This is the only station that I am able to fill up," Jaillard told Xinhua, as she was ushered to jump the queue with her University College London Hospitals ambulance at a petrol service, after waiting for 45 minutes in the line.
There were at least twenty vehicles outside the Shell petrol station near Marylebone Station, where Jaillard had the fill-up. A middle-aged worker from the pump was busy giving directions to anxious drivers of cars, taxis, motorcycles and spotting prioritized vehicles like Jaillard's.
"It's been like this for days. People are panicking," said the worker, who did not give his name.
In recent days, fuel deliveries were disrupted largely due to the shortage of Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) drivers, leading to panic buying and lengthy queues at some petrol stations, the BBC has reported. According to the Petrol Retailers Association, as many as two-thirds of its membership of nearly 5,500 independent outlets are out of fuel, with the rest of them "partly dry and running out soon".
"We are working hard to ensure supplies for customers. Since Friday we have been seeing a higher than normal demand across our network which is resulting in some sites running low on some grades. We are replenishing these as quickly as we are able to," Shell Stations UK tweeted on Monday.
The manager of an Esso fuel station in Chapel Allerton has told Sky News they sold an unprecedented amount of fuel in 36 hours, explaining how their latest delivery, which should have lasted between five or six days, was gone in a day and a half.
RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said while there's no shortage of fuel at refineries, panic buying over the weekend means every forecourt in the country needs to re-stock at the same time which "puts unbelievable pressure on the supply chain", urging the British government to plug the gaps in the supply chain and keep deliveries moving normally.
As so many drivers had filled up over the weekend, there should be less overall demand as long as fuel makes its way back on to forecourts in the next few days. However, with the cost of oil rising and now near a three-year high, people might see higher forecourt prices in the future, irrespective of the current supply problems, the RAC said.
British Businesses Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng met with senior executives from the fuel industry following recent supply chain issues at petrol forecourts in some areas. He agreed to implement a measure to temporarily exempt industry from the Competition Act 1998 for the purpose of sharing information and optimizing supply.
Known as The Downstream Oil Protocol, this step will allow government to work constructively with fuel producers, suppliers, hauliers and retailers to ensure that disruption is minimized as far as possible. It will make it easier for industry to share information, so that they can more easily prioritize the delivery of fuel to the parts of the country and strategic locations that are most in need.
Kwarteng said: "While there has always been and continues to be plenty of fuel at refineries and terminals, we are aware that there have been some issues with supply chains. This is why we will enact the Downstream Oil Protocol to ensure industry can share vital information and work together more effectively to ensure disruption is minimized."
To ease the pressures, the government also announced an immediate increase in HGV driver testing, short term visas for HGV drivers and new skills bootcamps to train up to 3,000 more people to become HGV drivers.
Shell, ExxonMobil, BP and other stakeholders said in a joint statement that they will continue to work closely in partnership over this period with local and national government and want to reassure the public that the issues that have arisen are due to temporary spikes in customer demand, not a national shortage of fuel.