Britain set to ease visa rules amid shortage of truck drivers, Auto News, ET Auto
Britain is expected to announce plans to issue temporary work visas to truck drivers to alleviate a severe labor shortage that has led to fuel rationing at hundreds of gas stations and long lines waiting to be filled – with dry pumps in some places.
As retailers warned of significant disruption ahead of Christmas, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office said it was considering temporary measures to address the shortage of heavy truck drivers.
Newspapers reported the government would allow up to 5,000 foreign drivers to enter Britain on short-term visas, a move logistics companies and retailers have been asking for months but the government had previously ruled out.
The UK’s Road Haulage Association (RHA) says Britain needs 100,000 more drivers to meet demand.
The trucker shortages were caused in part by Brexit and COVID-19, which put an end to driver training and testing for about a year.
“We are considering temporary measures to avoid any immediate problems, but any measures we introduce will be very strictly time bound,” a spokeswoman for Johnson’s office in Downing Street said in a statement.
Downing Street declined to give further details.
Ministers have warned against panic buying, and oil companies say there is no shortage of supplies, just problems delivering fuel to gas stations.
However, there were long lines of vehicles at gas stations as motorists rushed to refuel, and some forecourts closed when their supplies ran out.
The issue came to the fore after BP said it had to shut down some of its outlets due to driver shortages, with ExxonMobil’s Shell and Esso also reporting supply issues.
EG Group, which operates 341 gas stations across Britain, said on Friday it would impose a purchase limit of 30 pounds ($ 41) per customer for fuel due to “unprecedented customer demand “.
“I regret what we see on the forecourt,” Huw Merriman, chairman of the parliamentary transport committee, told BBC TV.
“I was on my bike … and I drove past my BP garage and it was chaos. As soon as the message goes out there may be a fuel shortage, people will react naturally.”
A police force said long lines were a potential danger, blocking roads for emergency vehicles.
Downing Street said the country had “sufficient fuel stocks”.
“The public must be reassured, there is no shortage,” said the spokesperson. “But like countries around the world, we are suffering from a temporary shortage of COVID-related drivers needed to get supplies across the country.”
The fuel problem comes as Britain, the world’s fifth-largest economy, is also grappling with soaring European natural gas costs, causing energy prices to spike and potentially tight food supplies.
Other countries in Europe as well as the United States are also facing a shortage of truck drivers, and industry figures have warned that there is no guarantee that a change in the visa process would lead to the arrival of foreign drivers in Great Britain.
“We’ll have to see if we can attract people for a short period of time,” Merriman said.
Britain says the long-term solution is to hire more British drivers, with the RHA saying better wages and conditions are needed to attract people into the industry.
But retailers have warned that unless the government acts to address the shortage within the next 10 days, significant disruption is inevitable as Christmas approaches.