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Petrol panic as BP and Tesco close forecourts

Written by: Emma Lunn
The lorry driver shortage has led to BP and Tesco temporarily shutting some petrol stations, as the government urges drivers not to panic.

BP said tens of forecourts in its 1,200-strong network were experiencing shortages. Tesco said only two of its 500 petrol stations were currently affected.

However, the closed forecourts have led to reports of panic buying at petrol stations with queues of drivers pictured at various forecourts around the country.

The petrol shortage is another effect of the shortage of HGV drivers in the UK. Earlier this week Tesco advised shoppers not to panic buy food after some stores had empty shelves.

Grant Shapps, transport secretary, told Sky News he expected the shortage of drivers, which has been ongoing for several months, should “smooth out fairly quickly” as more HGV driving tests were being made available.

He said: “The problem is not new. There has been a lack of drivers for many months through this pandemic because during the lockdown drivers couldn’t be passed through their lorry HGV tests, and that is what has led to this problem. But many more tests are being made available now, so we should see it smooth out fairly quickly.”

Jim McMahon MP, Labour’s shadow transport secretary, said: “This is a rapidly worsening crisis that the Government has failed to heed the warnings of for a decade, never investing in or valuing working class jobs.

“Sticking plaster solutions are not going to solve it. Ministers must take decisive steps now to tackle the 90,000 driver shortfall. If they fail to take action, the responsibility for every empty shelf, every vital medicine not delivered and every supplier not able to meet demand lies at the Conservatives’ door.”

A poll for Unite by Survation found 56% of the public believe employers should pay lorry drivers more. The survey found 48% of people blame the government for food shortages, with only 14% blaming supermarkets, and 14% truck drivers.

According to the poll, the public believes a combination of factors, Covid-19, Brexit and low pay are all significant factors in the shortages being seen in supermarkets. More than half (57%) believe low pay for truck drivers is a significant factor. Among Conservative voters 53% share this view while among Labour voters it is 60%.

Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, said: “This poll seems to show that a considerable section of the public are ahead of the government and the employers on the lorry drivers’ crisis.

“Like Unite, the public recognise that providing decent jobs, on decent pay, for lorry drivers, would attract more workers to the industry. That would be a starter for 10 in beginning to deal with the current crisis. Years of suppressing drivers’ pay and bypassing European regulations have led us to where we are now.”

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