LONDON (Reuters) – Britain is looking at temporary measures to alleviate an acute shortage of truckers, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office said on Friday, to smooth disruption to food and petrol supplies which retailers have warned could impact Christmas.
Britain’s retail industry has warned the government that unless it acts to address the shortage of heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers in the next 10 days, then significant disruption was inevitable in the run-up to Christmas.
“We’re looking at temporary measures to avoid any immediate problems, but any measures we introduce will be very strictly time limited,” a spokeswoman for Johnson’s Downing Street office said in a statement.
Downing Street did not give any details on what the measures would be. The trucking industry has called for the government to allow short-term visas for international drivers to enter Britain and fill the gap.
As the world’s fifth-largest economy emerges from COVID-19 lockdowns, a spike in European natural gas prices and a post-Brexit shortage of truck drivers have left Britain grappling with soaring energy prices and a potential food supply crunch.
BP had to close some of its gas stations due to the driver shortages while queues formed at some Shell stations as pumps ran dry in some places. ExxonMobil’s Esso said a small number of its 200 Tesco Alliance retail sites had also been impacted in some way.
The government has sought to reassure the country over fuel supplies and has played down the impact of Brexit on causing the driver shortage, instead saying the COVID-19 pandemic has hindered the ability to train and test new drivers.
“We have ample fuel stocks in this country and the public should be reassured there are no shortages,” the spokeswoman said.
“But like countries around the world we are suffering from a temporary COVID-related shortage of drivers needed to move supplies around the country.”
(Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)