UK Labour lawmaker and shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds blamed on Tuesday the Conservative government for the current shortage of tanker truck drivers that has translated in lack of fuel at gas stations and long queues by panic buying motorists.
“We’ve found ourselves in this position because of a complete failure of the government to lead and to plan ahead,” the opposition politician told Sky News broadcaster.
Thomas-Symonds claimed that he and other shadow cabinet colleagues wrote to transport minister Grant Shapps in July to alert him on the situation, but in his reply a month later, the secretary told them that the government would not be using foreign labor to solve the shortage of drivers.
“Now the government says it wants to train up, and I’m absolutely in favor of training up HGV [Heavy Goods Vehicles] drivers, but it hasn’t done that to a sufficient extent nor has it until recently made a very small concession on being able to bring drivers from abroad,” the lawmaker said, adding that “this is a crisis of the government’s own making.”
Speaking to Sky News later in the day, Shapps said that the “first very tentative signs of stabilization” in fuel supply to gas stations were beginning to be seen, although he admitted that it would take some more time for the queues to be over.
“A lot of petrol is now being transferred into people’s cars and there are now the first very tentative signs of stabilisation in the forecourt storage which won’t be reflected in the queues as yet, but it’s the first time we’ve seen more petrol in the petrol stations itself,” the transport secretary said.
Motorists in the United Kingdom started panic buying on September 23 after several national energy companies announced they were experiencing problems with fuel supplies due to a shortage of tanker drivers. Over the weekend, after more gas stations ran out of supply, the government said it would introduce over 10,000 temporary visas to truck drivers and poultry workers to solve the issue with the supply chain.
Late last week, a Shell spokesperson told Sputnik that the company saw an increased demand for fuel at some of its stations in light of the shortages announcement, noting that this may result in larger queues.
The government has blamed the shortage on the suspension of 40,000 trucker training tests during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Road Haulage Association claimed that around 20,000 foreign drivers had left the country after Brexit put an end to the free movement of persons between the European Union and the United Kingdom.