Britain is expected to announce plans to issue temporary visas to truck drivers amid a fuel crisis attributed to an acute labour shortage in the energy sector.
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 drivers.
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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.
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. A spokeswoman for Johnson’s Downing Street office said in a statement:
We’re looking at temporary measures to avoid any immediate problems, but any measures we introduce will be very strictly time-limited.
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.
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”.
Britain says the long-term solution is for more British drivers to be hired, with the RHA saying better pay and conditions are needed to attract people into the industry.
But the retail industry has warned that unless the government acts to address the shortage in the next 10 days, then significant disruption is inevitable in the run-up to Christmas.