Panic buying rather than supply chain issues is driving the shortage of fuel at some petrol stations in the UK, the president of a motoring association has said, amid continued reports of queues for fuel on Saturday.
Police urged drivers to be “sensible” about filling up at petrol stations after long queues built up.
Lincolnshire police said: “We have received reports this morning of long queues at some petrol stations in the county. This is a potential hazard for vehicles making other journeys, and may cause difficulties for emergency services trying to reach people in need.
“While we appreciate that some people may be particularly keen to fill up their vehicles this weekend, we would respectfully ask motorists to be sensible when making judgments about joining a queue at a petrol station. If it is too long, consider returning at a different time.”
Bedfordshire police tweeted: “We would ask that you make sure that you are not blocking roads while queuing, it’s important that emergency vehicles are able to pass at all times.”
However, we would ask that you make sure that you are not blocking roads while queuing, it’s important that emergency vehicles are able to pass at all times.
— Bedfordshire Police (@bedspolice) September 25, 2021
In Brockley, south London, motorists queued for petrol at an Esso petrol station on Saturday morning, while queues also formed at a Tesco petrol station in Bracknell, Berkshire, among other places.
Edmund King, the president of the AA, the Automobile Association, told BBC Breakfast the problem should pass in a matter of days if drivers just stuck to filling up when they needed it, adding “there is plenty of fuel at source” and that a shortage of lorry drivers had only been a “localised problem” earlier in the week.
Tony Danker, the director-general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said it was “a shame” that queues had to form before the government acted, but described the government’s expected post-Brexit U-turn regarding a relaxation of visa rules for foreign lorry drivers as “a huge relief”.
Danker told BBC Breakfast: “Hopefully it is going to happen and it is a huge relief. We’ve been calling for it for three months, we could see this problem coming and more problems coming, and so it’s a shame the government needed queues at the pumps to move, but move I hope they have and it will help.”
On Friday evening it emerged that the British retailer EG Group had introduced a fuel purchase limit of £30 per customer at its 389 petrol stations, due to “unprecedented” demand and supply challenges.
The limit on all fuel grades is meant to ensure sites keep “running smoothly” but will not apply to heavy goods drivers, or emergency services vehicles.
An EG Group spokesperson said: “This is a company decision to ensure all our customers have a fair chance to refuel and to enable our sites to carry on running smoothly. We kindly ask everyone visiting our sites to treat our colleagues, supply chain partners and customers with respect during these very challenging times. All of EG Group’s UK sites remain open and operational to serve customers.”
Commenting on the expected announcement by the government that a change to visa rules would allow foreign lorry drivers back into the UK, King said: “We were in discussions with government ministers last night and we talked to the major fuel companies, and we can reiterate there is not a problem with supply at the source.
“Earlier in the week there were some problems with the supply chain, as we know, due to a shortage of some lorry drivers, but that was only a localised problem.”
King said the shortage had been exacerbated by “people going out and filling up when they really don’t need to”.
“If you think about it, 30m cars out there, if they’ve all got half a tank [and] if they all rush out to fill up the rest of the tank and the tank is about 60 litres, that will put a strain on the system,” he said.
The issues, he said, were unlikely to last because the supply chain is not being disrupted by ongoing problems such as industrial action.
“The good news is you can only really fill up once – you’ve got to use the fuel, so this should be a short-term thing,” he said. “It’s not like the fuel crises in the past when the supplier was hit by strikes, etc.
“So, once people have filled up, they won’t travel more than they normally travel, so this strain on the system should ease up in the next few days.”
The shortage of lorry and HGV drivers however, King conceded, was an ongoing issue. “The market is stretched, so I think that is a broader issue that is affecting the supply chain, not just the petrol and diesel, but retail as well.”
King said the government had freed up a number of driving tests for HGV drivers in training but said he did not know any details of further action it may plan to take.
Danker warned that as well as lorry driver shortages, there were also labour shortages, supply chain and energy problems.
“I think what we need is the government to grip these things with us in business and get ahead of them rather than behind them,” he said.
The Conservative MP and Brexiter Andrea Leadsom urged people on Twitter not to “over buy” energy, and said any shortages would be the result of “stockpiling”.
There’s no energy crisis in the UK! If we end up with shortages it will be because of stockpiling!! Please don’t over buy…..
— Andrea Leadsom MP (@andrealeadsom) September 24, 2021