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Associated Press

UK gas stations run dry as trucker shortage sparks hoarding

Thousands of British gas stations have run dry, as motorists scrambled to fill up amid a supply disruption due to a shortage of truck drivers

LONDON (AP) - Thousands of British gas stations ran dry Sunday, 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 5,500 independent outlets, said about two-thirds of its members were reporting that they had sold out their fuel, 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 over the weekend, and tempers frayed as some drivers waited for hours. Police were called to one London gas station Sunday after a scuffle broke out. Police said a man was arrested on suspicion of assault.

The haulage industry says the U.K. is short tens of thousands of truckers, due to a perfect storm of factors including the coronavirus pandemic, an aging workforce and an exodus of foreign workers following Britain's Brexit departure from the European Union last year.

Several countries, including the United States and Germany, also are 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, the U.K.'s Conservative government announced Saturday that it will issue thousands of emergency visas to foreign truck drivers to help prevent a Christmas without turkey or toys for many British families. The government said it would issue 5,000 three-month visas for truck drivers starting in October, and another 5,500 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.”

A view of a sign at a petrol station, in Bracknell England, Sunday Sept. 26, 2021. In a U-turn, Britain says it will issue thousands of emergency visas to foreign truck drivers to help fix supply-chain problems that have caused empty supermarket shelves, long lines at gas stations and shuttered petrol pumps. (Steve Parsons/PA via AP)
A member of staff directs drivers in a queue for fuel at a closed Sainsbury's petrol station in south London, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021. In a U-turn, Britain says it will issue thousands of emergency visas to foreign truck drivers to help fix supply-chain problems that have caused empty supermarket shelves, long lines at gas stations and shuttered petrol pumps. (Dominic Lipinski/PA via AP)
Motorists queue to fill their cars at a Sainsbury's fuel station in Ashford, England, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021. The British government is expected to ease visa rules for truck drivers to help fix supply-chain problems that have triggered long lines at gas stations and some shuttered pumps. The government says it is“looking at temporary measures to avoid any immediate problems.” The haulage industry says the U.K. is short tens of thousands of truckers, due to a perfect storm of factors including the coronavirus pandemic, an aging workforce and an exodus of European Union workers following Britain's departure from the bloc. (Gareth Fuller/PA via AP)
A man carries containers to a petrol station in Bracknell, England, Saturday Sept. 25, 2021. The haulage industry says the U.K. is short tens of thousands of truckers, due to a perfect storm of factors including the coronavirus pandemic, an aging workforce and an exodus of European Union workers following Britain's departure from the bloc. BP and Esso shut a handful of their gas stations this week, and motorists have formed long lines as they try to fill up in case of further disruption. (Steve Parsons/PA via AP)