Reuters is hoping Britain will ease visa rules in the wake of the truck driver shortage


© Reuters File Photo: L25 seen in HGV parking at Coachham Services on M25 Motorway, Cobam, UK, August 31, 2021. Reuters / Peter Sibibra / File photo


By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain is expected to announce plans to issue temporary work visas to truck drivers to alleviate acute labor shortages that have led to long queues for fuel rations and filling at hundreds of gas stations – with pumps drying up in some places.

As a retailer warned of significant disruptions on the eve of Christmas, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office said. They are looking for temporary measures to meet the shortage of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs).

Newspapers have reported that the government will allow 5,000 foreign drivers to enter Britain on short-term visas, a measure that logistics companies and retailers have been demanding for months but which the government has previously refused.

The Road Housing Association (RHA) in the UK says it needs one million more drivers to meet Britain’s demand.

The lack of trackers was partly caused by Brexit and Covid-19, which stopped training and testing drivers for about a year.

A spokesman for Johnson’s Downing Street office said in a statement: “We are looking for temporary measures to avoid immediate problems, but any measures we take will be strictly limited.”

Downing Street declined to give further details.

Ministers have warned against panic buying, and oil companies say there is no shortage of supplies, only problems to supply fuel to gas stations.

However, there were long lines of vehicles at the filling station as motorists rushed to fill up, and some forecourts were closed as supplies were cut off.

The issue came to the fore after BP (NYSE 🙂 said it had to close some of its outlets due to driver shortage, also reported problems with Esso supply of Shell (LON 🙂 and ExxonMobil (NYSE :).

Easy Group, which operates 11 forecourts across the UK, said on Friday that it would impose a p p0 ($ 41) purchase limit per customer for fuel “due to unprecedented customer demand”.

“I am very sorry to see what we are seeing in the forecourt,” Hu Mariman, chairman of the parliamentary transport committee, told BBC TV.

“I was on my bike … and came across my BP garage and it was a mess. There could be a fuel shortage as soon as the message came out, people reacted intelligently.”

One police force said long queues were a potential danger, blocking roads for emergency vehicles.

Downing Street says the country has “adequate fuel reserves”.

“People should be reassured that there is no shortage,” the spokesman said. “But like many countries in the world, we are temporarily suffering from a shortage of covid-related drivers that are needed to move supplies across the country.”

The fuel issue comes when Britain, the world’s fifth-largest economy, also raises fuel prices due to rising European costs and creates a potential food crisis.

Other European countries and the United States are also tackling truck driver shortages, and industry figures warn that changes to the visa process do not guarantee that foreign drivers will come to Britain.

“We have to see if we can attract people for a short period of time,” Merriman said.

The UK says the long-term solution is to hire more British drivers, while the RHA says better pay and conditions are needed to attract people to the industry.

But retailers have warned that if the government does not address the deficit within the next 10 days, significant disruption before Christmas is inevitable.

($ 1 = 73 0.7311)

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