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BP temporarily closes some petrol sites amid lorry driver shortage

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LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 23: Pumps, out of action, at a BP (British Petroleum) petrol station on September 23, 2021 in London, United Kingdom. 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 Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
BP has been dealing with a shortage of unleaded and diesel fuel. Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty

BP (BP.L) has temporarily closed a number of its petrol stations across the UK as it struggles with a shortage of lorry drivers.

The company said “a handful” of its 1,200 sites would be shut for the second time in just a few months, and that it was working hard to solve the issues.

It blamed the move on the ongoing supply chain disruptions, which have seen a severe shortage of heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers. The shortage has meant that BP has been dealing with a shortage of unleaded and diesel fuel.

According to reports, the oil firm has told the UK government that it will restrict deliveries of petrol to its network of service stations in order to ensure continuity of supply. However, forecourts on motorways will be prioritised and will be restocked as normal.

Watch: BP 'prioritising' fuel deliveries as driver shortages hit supplies - and some petrol stations are shut

“We are experiencing fuel supply issues at some of our retail sites in the UK and unfortunately have therefore seen a handful of sites temporarily close due to a lack of both unleaded and diesel grades,” BP said in a statement.

"These have been caused by delays in the supply chain, which has been impacted by industry-wide driver shortages across the UK and we are working hard to address this issue.

"We continue to work with our haulier supplier to minimise disruption and to ensure efficient and effective deliveries to serve our customers. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

Hanna Hofer, head of BP’s retail in the UK, raised the problem at a meeting organised by the Cabinet Office last Thursday. She said it was vital the government knew the “urgency of the situation.”

The same meeting was attended by Tesco (TSCO.L) and other groups who made the same argument for a temporary amnesty. So far ministers are resisting such a move, and favouring a push to get more British licence holders on the road.

Read more: UK service sector growth slows amid staff shortages and supply chain disruption

According to Hofer, BP has “two thirds of normal forecourt stock levels required for smooth operations” and that level is “declining rapidly,” ITV reported.

BP shuttered some of its UK sites two months ago, due to similar supply chain issues, the closure of a distribution terminal, and staff being told to isolate after coming in contact with a positive COVID-19 case.

In July, the Road Haulage Association (RHA) reported that there was a shortage of around 100,000 drivers, warning that the situation had reached a “crisis point” with critical supply chains failing.

It said that many drivers had gone back to their home countries, either due to uncertainty over new Brexit rules, or because of the UK's COVID-related lockdown restrictions.

The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), which represents petrol station operators in Britain, said that some sites were continuing to experience delivery delays, but that they were largely confined to London and the South-East.

"Fuel demand is still only at 92% of pre-pandemic levels so we believe there should be ample stock available at refineries and delivery terminals throughout the UK," Gordon Balmer of the PRA said.

Watch: Tesco warns Christmas panic buying 'could be worse than first lockdown' due to driver shortage 

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