To alleviate the acute labour shortage that has led to fuel rationing at some filling stations in Britain and warnings from retailers of significant disruption in the run-up to Christmas, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office said it was looking at temporary measures of visa issuance to address the shortage of heavy goods vehicle (HGV) drivers by Sunday.
According to newspapers, the government would allow up to 5,000 foreign drivers into Britain on short-term visas, a measure that logistics companies and retailers have demanded for months but which the government had previously ruled out.
“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.
The Road Haulage Association estimates the UK is short of about 100,000 HGV drivers if it is to meet demand. It blames the pandemic and Brexit for making existing shortages worse.
The government has said there was no fuel shortage at refineries, and urged people not to panic buy.
“We have ample fuel stocks in this country and the public should be reassured there are no shortages,” the Downing Street 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.”
Oil companies say there is no shortage of supplies, merely problems delivering the fuel to the gas stations.
EG Group, which has 341 petrol stations in the UK on Friday said it is introducing a limit of £30 per customer on all grades of fuel due to “unprecedented customer demand”.
Britain says the long-term solution is for more British drivers to be hired, but the retail industry has warned that the government acts to address the shortage in the next 10 days.
Other countries such as the United States and Germany are also dealing with truck driver shortages.