Thousands of British petrol stations have run dry, an industry group said, as motorists scrambled to fill up amid a supply disruption due to a shortage of truck drivers.
The Petrol Retailers Association, which represents almost 5500 independent outlets, said about two-thirds of its members were reporting that they had sold out their fuel on Sunday (local time), with the rest “partly dry and running out soon”.
Association chairman Brian Madderson said the shortages were the result of “panic buying, pure and simple”.
“There is plenty of fuel in this country, but it is in the wrong place for the motorists,” he told the BBC.
“It is still in the terminals and the refineries.”
Long lines of vehicles formed at many gas stations at the weekend, and tempers frayed as some drivers waited for hours.
Police were called to one London gas station on Sunday after a scuffle broke out. Police said a man was arrested on suspicion of assault.
The haulage industry said Britain was short tens of thousands of truckers, due to a perfect storm of factors including the coronavirus pandemic, an ageing workforce and an exodus of foreign workers following Britain’s departure from the European Union last year.
Other nations, including the US and Germany, are also experiencing a shortage of truck drivers. The problem has been especially visible in Britain, where it has contributed to empty supermarket shelves and shuttered gas pumps.
After weeks of mounting pressure, Britain’s Conservative government announced on Saturday that it would issue thousands of emergency visas to foreign truck drivers to help prevent a Christmas without turkey or toys for many families.
The government said it would issue 5000 three-month visas for truck drivers starting in October, and another 5500 for poultry workers.
Industry groups welcomed the new visa plan, although the British Retail Consortium said it was “too little, too late.”
Ruby McGregor-Smith, president of the Confederation of British Industry, said the announcement was “the equivalent of throwing a thimble of water on a bonfire”.