Britain sends in the military to tackle fuel crisis
Daniel Harries

The British military has begun delivering fuel, as the country struggles to maintain supply chains due to an acute shortage of truck drivers. 

Britain's supply chains for everything from pork, petrol and poultry to medicines and milk have been strained to breaking point by shortages of labor in the wake of the Brexit and COVID-19 crises.

Panic buying of fuel amid the shortage of truck drivers triggered chaotic scenes across major cities last week, with long queues of vehicles at fuel stations. There have been physical fights over the petrol pumps while others hoarded fuel in old water bottles and even plastic bags.



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"As an extra precaution, we've put the extra drivers on," Prime Minister Boris Johnson's finance minister, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, told LBC radio.

"The situation has been improving now for I think over a week every day ... it is getting better and as demand settles back to more normal levels, the strong expectation is things will resolve themselves."

The Petrol Retailers Association said about 22 percent of fuel stations in London and the southeast were still without fuel and the association's executive director, Gordon Balmer, said it might take a week to 10 days to get stocks back up to normal.

British ministers have repeatedly denied the fuel crisis has anything to do with Brexit and have cast the truck driver shortage as a global problem. 

"The HGV [heavy goods vehicle] drivers is not a UK issue, it's a Europe-wide issue and beyond," Sunak said. "I want people to know that we are doing everything we can to mitigate some of those challenges, where we can make a difference."


Members of the military at Buncefield Oil Depot in Hemel Hempstead, Britain. /Reuters/Andrew Boyers

Members of the military at Buncefield Oil Depot in Hemel Hempstead, Britain. /Reuters/Andrew Boyers


A Europe-wide issue 

Despite London's denials, the recent winner in the German Federal election, Olaf Scholz, framed the UK's issues as a result of Brexit. "The free movement of labor is part of the European Union and we worked very hard to convince the British not to leave the union," he said. 

However, the shortage of drivers is not only affecting the UK. According to consultancy Transport Intelligence, some 400,000 more truck drivers are needed across Europe to address the shortage. 

Along with the UK, some of the worst-affected countries are Poland, facing an estimated shortage of around 124,000 drivers, and Germany, lacking up to 60,000 drivers, according to a report by the consultancy. 

Their report highlights that shortages have been exacerbated by the pandemic, "as new drivers have been unable to train and take their tests and COVID restrictions make the job even less attractive."

Source(s): Reuters

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