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BP ‘prioritising’ fuel deliveries as driver shortages hit supplies – and some petrol stations are shut

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BP has closed a number of petrol stations as the company gets to grips with delivery problems that it has blamed on the national shortage of HGV and tanker drivers.

The company, which experienced similar disruption in July, told Sky News that “tens” of its 1,200-strong forecourts were experiencing shortages and it was “prioritising” them to ensure they got re-stocked first.

It is understood there is no question of rationing as a BP source said it implied a shortage of diesel and petrol and that was not the case as stocks were plentiful across the country.

A view of a BP petrol station sign in Chelmsford, Essex. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday August 15, 2013. Photo credit should read: Nick Ansell/PA Wire
Image: BP said it was sorry for ‘any inconvenience’

However, a top BP manager was reported to have warned the government that the situation was getting worse.

A company statement said: “We are experiencing fuel supply issues at some of our retail sites in the UK and unfortunately have therefore seen a handful of sites temporarily close due to a lack of both unleaded and diesel grades.

“These have been caused by delays in the supply chain, which has been impacted by industry-wide driver shortages across the UK and we are working hard to address this issue.

“We continue to work with our haulier supplier to minimise disruption and to ensure efficient and effective deliveries to serve our customers.

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“We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

Gordon Balmer, executive director of the Petrol Retailers’ Association – which represents independent forecourts across the UK, equating to 65% of the total, said: “Like many industries, the retail fuels sector is under supply pressure from a lack of trained HGV drivers.”

The risk for supermarkets is high according to the Road Haulage Association
Image: A shortage of HGV drivers has been blamed for the issue

Mr Balmer said any issues of delayed deliveries “appear confined to London and the South-East and appear temporary by nature” and that with fuel demand still at only 92% of pre-pandemic levels “we believe there should be ample stock available at refineries and delivery terminals throughout the UK”.

“Cases of complete forecourt stockouts have been rare so the resilience of retail fuels is not in question, which is good news for the motorist,” Mr Balmer added.

“The PRA recommends that motorists maintain sufficient fuel in the tank to enable them to get to an alternative filling station in the rare instance that fuel is not available.”

Logistics UK, which represents the logistics industry, said: “Logistics UK is aware of reports that petrol supplies are currently being affected by the HGV driver shortage.

“The driver shortage is a very serious issue that needs urgent government and industry action to resolve, however, we urge people not to panic buy.

“The logistics industry is resilient and has proven capable of supporting shops, families and businesses during COVID-19, border closures and the first stages of Brexit, and will continue to serve the needs of the nation.”

The fuel delivery woes mark another front in the fight against supply chain disruption caused by the nationwide shortage of qualified HGV and tanker drivers – estimated at more than 100,000 by an industry body.

It has formed part of the UK’s growing inflation problem as pay rises – to attract more drivers and retain them – add to surging bills from stiff competition for the swift delivery of goods.

BP is understood to have expressed concerns about the driver shortage issue at a meeting with government officials last week.

It warned then of a looming squeeze on the ability to get product from refineries to forecourts.

According to ITV News, the company’s head of UK retail Hanna Hofer said it was important the government understood the “urgency of the situation”, which she described as “bad, very bad”, with BP having “two-thirds of normal forecourt stock levels.. for smooth operations”.

The Road Haulage Association has led calls for ministers to back down on their refusal to add EU drivers to the Shortage Occupation List which bypasses post-Brexit legislation on immigration.

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Iceland boss says ‘no need to panic buy’

The boss of Iceland Foods used an interview with Sky News on Thursday to support the industry’s position as supermarket, and other consumer brands, warn of the prospect of Christmas shortages without a flood of additional help to get supplies through.

Ministers have argued that the driver problem is a Europe-wide issue and it is providing additional support in the form of cutting red tape to aid recruitment and testing.