UK petrol shortage – live: Asda sets £30 limit amid panic buying as ministers plan HGV driver visa changes

© Getty Queues for petrol 2.jpg

LIVE – Updated at 22:29

The group that owns Asda has announced it will introduce a fuel cap of £30 per customer at all its petrol stations due to “unprecedented customer demand and associated supply challenges”.

In a statement, EG Group said the move would ensure “all our customers have a fair chance to refuel” and that the limit would apply to all its grades of fuel.

“All of EG Group’s UK sites remain open and operational to serve customers,” the retailer said, adding HGV drivers and emergency services were excluded.

It comes amid a perfect storm of shortages, with panic buying, a lack of fuel and a reduced number of HGV drivers all contributing to the crisis – which earlier forced some Shell petrol stations to run out of fuel altogether. BP, Tesco and Esso also warned of a lack of supplies at some of their forecourts.

Long queues formed at petrol stations across the nation on Friday in spite of transport secretary Grant Shapps’ assertion that motorists should “carry on as normal”.

Ministers met today to discuss lifting some visa requirements for goods drivers in a bid to stem the UK’s deepening logistics crisis.

No decision had been announced on Friday evening, but the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has since called for the government to establish a task force on the same pegging as the Cobra emergency committee to deal with the problems.

Key Points

  • Asda sets fuel limit of £30 per customer amid shortages
  • Panic buying sees some Shell garages run out of fuel
  • Ministers to discuss easing visa rules for HGV drivers…
  • …as BRC warns there is just ‘10 days to save Christmas’
  • CBI: Cobra-level response needed to deal with supply issues
  • Military could be drafted in to drive HGVs

Watch: Shapps supports relaxing HGV visas to clear petrol backlog

22:09 , Sam Hancock

Asda sets fuel limit of £30 per customer amid shortages

21:38 , Sam Hancock

EG Group, which recently bought Asda, has introduced a limit of £30 per customer on “all grades of fuel”.

In a statement, an EG spokesperson said:

“Due to the current unprecedented customer demand for fuel and associated supply challenges we have taken the decision to introduce a limit of £30 per customer on all of our grades of fuel. This excludes HGV drivers and emergency services due to their vital role at this time.

“This is a company decision to ensure all our customers have a fair chance to refuel and to enable our sites to carry on running smoothly. We kindly ask everyone visiting our sites to treat our colleagues, supply chain partners and customers with respect during these very challenging times. All of EG Group’s UK sites remain open and operational to serve customers.”

The retailer bought the Leon chain of restaurants for a reported £100m earlier this year.

© Provided by The Independent (Getty)

Opinion: ‘We face a perfect storm of crises – and the PM is making things worse’

20:47 , Sam Hancock

Our associate editor Sean O’Grady writes about Boris Johnson’s failings when it comes to the UK’s imminent “perfect storm” of crises.

You might call it the ultimate in cynicism (which I’d take as a compliment) but I’ve found it a good rule of thumb to take whatever a certain type of politician says and then invert it to discover the reality.

Over the past few of years it’s served me particularly well. Thus, when Theresa May said that no deal was better than bad deal I knew she wouldn’t settle for a no deal Brexit. When Boris Johnson said that the coronavirus emergency would last for a few weeks before we sent it packing, well, I had a funny feeling it might take a bit longer.

Keir Starmer says his internal party reforms aren’t about smashing the left… therefore I am working on the basis that they’re about smashing the left. When Kawsi Kwarteng and his mates say that there won’t be shortages of petrol… well, let’s just say I went out first thing this morning to the petrol station. It’s better than having to walk to the shops (to buy the candles we’ll soon require).

Read his thinking in full here:

© Provided by The Independent

Opinion: We are facing a perfect storm of crises – and Johnson is making things worse

CBI: Cobra-level response needed to deal with supply issues

20:17 , Sam Hancock

The Cabinet Office, the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have taken part in a high-level meeting to discuss supply issues currently hitting the UK.

However, no new measures had been announced on Friday evening over how the government intends to ease pressure on a number of industries, including gas, supermarkets and HGV.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has called for ministers to establish a task force on the same pegging as the Cobra emergency committee to deal with the problems, according to a report by the Press Association.

Tony Danker, CBI director-general, said: “After speaking with hundreds of business leaders this week, it’s clear there’s a total mindset shift from growing to coping. This is now a major threat to our recovery and the government needs to step up its response to a new level of both speed and boldness.

“While many of these challenges are global in nature, the solutions we need are local.”

He added: “Establishing a crisis management task force to move quickly – with both business and government around the table – will ensure government is far more informed about the nature and scale of the challenges, can formulate responses fast, and is able to get the support of the prime minister and the Cabinet to take action required. We stand ready to support the government to do this.”

It comes amid warnings that disruption to festive preparations will be “inevitable” if progress is not made in the next “10 days” to solve the shortfall of around 90,000 lorry drivers.

Tory MP urges residents not to ‘panic buy’ fuel

19:50 , Sam Hancock

Paul Holmes has urged Eastleigh residents not to “panic buy” fuel at local stations.

Have to say the media are also stoking panic by showing queues at petrol stations, report responsibly!

— Paul Holmes MP (@pauljholmes) September 24, 2021

Texaco tells customers ‘fuel supplies are ample’

19:30 , Sam Hancock

American oil brand Texaco sent an email to all its customers on Friday confirming they are not running out of fuel, and all stations are stocked.

In the email, seen by local news site HampshireLive, the petrol chain wrote:

“We would like to reassure our customers that fuel supplies are ample and that we have committed all available delivery resources in order to keep our Texaco branded service stations adequately stocked.

Despite some media reports of other brands having site closures and other mixed speculation, there is no need for our loyal Texaco customers to fill up more frequently than normal. We are confident that our supply chain is able to adequately manage the current situation and that we are able to continue to satisfy our customers’ needs.”

© Provided by The Independent The email was sent to customers earlier today (Reuters)

LTDA seeks confirmation of gas supply for black cab drivers

19:07 , Sam Hancock

The Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA), which represents black cab drivers in London, says it has contacted City Hall for “confirmation” that taxis will continue to have access to fuel set aside for “essential services”.

As we start to receive more and more reports of petrol stations running dry we have contacted City Hall to request confirmation that taxis (as an essential service) remain on the emergency fuel supply register from September 2000.

— The LTDA (@TheLTDA) September 24, 2021

Petrol stations continue to close across England – reports

18:48 , Sam Hancock

Petrol stations across the country are continuing to close due to a combination of gas shortages, panic buying and reduced HGV driver numbers.

Graham Wylde, who runs Shawbury Service Station, in Shropshire, said his customers were unhappy on Friday after the site was left with “no petrol to sell for the first time in 50 years”.

He told the BBC it had been particularly “unpleasant” to leave health workers who “urgently” wanted fuel without it.

A delivery had been due at the site at 6am on Friday but it never turned up, he added.

Other petrol stations in Shropshire have reported no supply issues but say they are seeing increased customer demand – about two or three times more than usual.

Meanwhile, garages in areas such as London, Hertfordshire, Northwhich and Worcester were among those forced to shut due to the ongoing crisis.

Ministers are reported to have met today to come up with a solution.

Images of petrol shortage’s effect on panic-buying Britain

18:12 , Sam Hancock

An aerial view of people queuing for petrol at a Tesco garage in Northwich (Getty) A sign outside a BP petrol station in Hildenborough, southeast England, informs motorists that the station is closed due to a lack of fuel (AFP via Getty Images) Closed pumps at a Shell garage in Clapham, London as drivers ignore pleas not to panic buy (PA) A queue forms for an Esso petrol station in London (Getty)

Shoppers should brace for 5% rise, warns retail expert

17:50 , Sam Hancock

In some related news, Holly Bancroft writes about the incoming hikes shoppers face as a result of difficulties facing the sector, including a shortage of HGV drivers.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Sables said: “As a result, there is such a pressure on suppliers at the moment, as well as the retailers, to pass those on because the costs simply aren’t sustainable without some form of cost price increase.

“We have never seen this level of suppliers coming to us speaking about planned cost price increases.

“I would expect to see across the next six to eight weeks something like five per cent [increases] going across the board on to the prices on shelves.”

Read the full report here:

© Provided by The Independent

Shoppers should brace for price rises of five per cent, warns retail expert

Watch: Government tells public to remain calm over closed petrol stations

17:26 , Sam Hancock

Ten days to save Christmas, warn BRC amid HGV driver shortage

17:17 , Sam Hancock

Britain’s retail industry warned the government today that unless it moves to alleviate an acute shortage of truckers in the next 10 days, a significant disruption is inevitable in the run-up to Christmas.

“HGV drivers are the glue which hold our supply chains together. Without them, we are unable to move goods from farms to warehouses to shops,” Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium (BRC), told Reuters earlier.

“Unless new drivers are found in the next ten days, it is inevitable that we will see significant disruption in the run up to Christmas.”

Explaining why the next 10 days are crucial, Mr Opie said it was because retailers ramp up supplies in October to ensure there are enough goods for the peak Christmas season.

A decision by ministers about whether to relax some visa requirements for HGV divers is yet to be announced.

‘Perfect storm’ for homelessness with gas price rise and UC cuts – charity

17:04 , Sam Hancock

A charity has warned that more than a quarter of renters already struggle to heat their homes in winter as the gas price spike promises a “perfect storm for homelessness”.

It follows a survey, carried out by YouGov on behalf of the housing charity Shelter, which found 26 per cent of renters could not keep their homes warm in winter, the equivalent to 5.3 million people in England.

With energy prices rising, the furlough scheme due to end on Thursday and Universal Credit being cut a week later, the charity has called for urgent action to protect renters from the threat of eviction and homelessness.

Polly Neate, Shelter’s CEO, told PA: “The triple whammy of the furlough scheme ending, cuts to Universal Credit and rocketing fuel prices may be the final straw for many renters barely hanging on to their homes.

“We are facing a perfect storm for homelessness to rise, and the new housing secretary must get a handle on the situation before winter arrives.”

She added: “No parent should have to choose between putting the heating on, food on the table or paying their rent – but that is the reality for so many families right now. Renters urgently need a lifeline. The government must reverse its decision to cut Universal Credit and provide emergency grants to renters with Covid arrears to pay off their debts. Otherwise, homelessness will regrettably rise.”

© Provided by The Independent Shelter warns a rise in homelessness is inevitable if cuts are not reversed (Getty)

Panic buying sees some Shell garages run out of fuel

16:32 , Sam Hancock

Some breaking news now. A handful of Shell petrol stations are reporting that they have run out of fuel.

Shell said it was seeing increased demand for fuel at some of its petrol stations as worries over lorry driver shortages sent motorists to the pumps en masse to fill up their tanks.

A spokesperson for the Anglo-Dutch oil group said: “We are seeing an increased demand today for fuel at some of our stations, which may in some instances result in larger queues.

“We are adapting our delivery schedules to ensure sufficient supplies for our customers.”

Follow Lamiat Sabin’s report here:

© Provided by The Independent

Some Shell petrol stations run out of fuel as panic buying triggers ‘larger queues’

Sign up to our virtual event exploring Brexit’s hidden costs

16:25 , Sam Hancock

It can be argued that it is only now, as we edge further away from the height of the Covid pandemic, that the real effects of Brexit are starting to become more visible.

During the past few weeks there have been a number of reasons why Brexit has been continuing to make headlines. Not only are there continued issues surrounding the Northern Ireland Protocol, which is yet to be resolved, there are now worrying examples of how the UK’s supply chain is being impacted by the fact we left the EU.

To discuss this, The Independent is hosting a virtual event on 6 October, hosted by our chief political commentator John Rentoul, during which an expert panel will explore the pros and cons that the reality of Brexit presents and what the future holds for a UK divorced from the EU.

To sign up for the event, click the link below.

© Provided by The Independent

Sign up to The Independent’s event exploring Brexit’s hidden costs

PM wants HGV crisis sorted ‘doesn’t care about visa limits any more’, report suggests

16:05 , Andy Gregory

The Financial Times has quoted an anonymous ally of Boris Johnson as saying that the prime minister “is completely fed up with bad headlines on this and wants it sorted and doesn’t care about visa limits any more”.

A Cabinet committee is meeting to discuss the possibility of easing visa rules for HGV drivers in a bid to ease the crisis, The Independent understands, with ministers having been divided over the issue for weeks.

Shell reports increased demand at some petrol stations

15:50 , Andy Gregory

Anglo-Dutch oil group Shell has now reported increased demand for fuel at some of its petrol stations, after .

“We are seeing an increased demand today for fuel at some of our stations, which may in some instances result in larger queues. We are adapting our delivery schedules to ensure sufficient supplies for our customers,” a spokesperson said.

According to the Reuters news agency, a handful of Shell petrol stations are thought to have run out of fuel.

Tory MPs ‘won’t object to relaxation of visa rules’

15:45 , Andy Gregory

A Conservative MP has welcomed the idea of relaxing visa rules to ease the crisis, and said he did not think fellow Tory backbenchers would object, Adam Forrest reports.

“I’ve got no problem with it if we’ve got a shortage [of drivers] that we don’t seem to be able to provide for domestically at the moment,” Craig Mackinlay told The Independent.

Mr Mackinlay, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for motorists and hauliers, said: “I don’t know of one colleague who wouldn’t be happy with it – it’s not a stick-in-mud issue about controlling our own visa system and not wanting people in from the EU. Not at all.”

The MP said he hoped pay rises in the sector would encourage more young people to become HGV drivers. “We need to make this job more attractive … but you can’t just turn on the supply of drivers overnight.”

Voices: We face a perfect storm of crises – and Boris Johnson is making things worse

15:24 , Andy Gregory

The economic crisis we are drifting into is comprised, dangerously, of many crises, each with their own characteristics, and all in normal times more than enough to deal with – but now all combining to give the British people a bit of a pasting this winter, writes our associate editor Sean O’Grady for Independent Voices.

He suggests that aside from the inflation crisis, the energy crisis and another Covid crisis, the shortage of competent governance is the most critical crisis of all – and that makes all the other crises that bit more acute.

© Provided by The Independent

Opinion: We are facing a perfect storm of crises – and Johnson is making things worse

Visa relaxation would be ‘godsend’, albeit a ‘very short-term, partial fix’, haulage chief says

14:54 , Andy Gregory

Rob Hollyman, director of Youngs Transportation and Logistics, said hauliers would breathe a “huge sigh of relief” if the government relaxes visa rules for lorry drivers, Ben Chapman reports.

“It will open up the gates to the Eastern Bloc drivers who are in Romania and Czech Republic and Slovakia to get themselves back here and get driving,” he said.

“It’s been very tough. We have been very short of drivers. It would be a godsend.

However, he added that it was “a very short-term, partial fix”. He called for 24-hour, seven-day-a-week testing of drivers to clear a backlog of 40,000 drivers waiting to obtain their HGV licences.

The haulage industry also wants rules requiring drivers to complete 35 hours of classroom learning to be suspended so that people who have left the industry can rejoin quickly.

“In an ideal world a refresh of knowledge can’t do any harm but we’re not in an ideal world. We are in a very, very bad state of affairs. It needs quick action and the government have proved time and again they are slightly behind the average speed of a glacier.”

‘Appetite to show government throwing kitchen sink’ at supply crisis, as Cabinet committee meets for talks

14:38 , Andy Gregory

Our economics editor Anna Isaac reports:

There is a meeting of the National Economic Recovery Taskforce (NERT), a cabinet committee, this afternoon to discuss the logistics crunch in the UK, The Independent understands.

This will weigh the possibility of lifting some visa requirements for HGV drivers, according to a senior government source. However, ministers have been divided over the issue for weeks, with the business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng and home secretary Priti Patel having been opposed to waiving visa requirements until now.

It’s unlikely to prove a quick fix, however, the source added, as there’s a shortage of lorry drivers which extends across Europe and in the US, too.

There are also other reasons, such as changes to tax rules for self-employed people, that have made the UK a more challenging market for some workers, which also lie behind recent labour shortages, they added. But, they said, there was “an appetite to show that the government is throwing the kitchen sink at the problem of supply disruptions”.

Jair Bolsonaro claims Boris Johnson asked for ‘emergency’ food help

14:12 , Andy Gregory

Brazil’s autocratic president Jair Bolsonaro has unexpectedly waded in on the UK’s supply chain crisis, claiming that Boris Johnson had requested an “emergency” deal to import an unspecified food product facing shortages in England.

Brazil is a major producer and exporter of turkeys, and there have been fears the UK could fall foul of a shortage this Christmas as a result to the HGV driver and CO2 crises.

Downing Street said it had a different recollection of Mr Bolsonaro’s account of the conversation during talks at the UN summit on Monday, but did not comment further.

Talk of ‘panic buying’ deflects from ‘real’ failures, government scientific advisor says

13:59 , Andy Gregory

Talk of “panic buying” merely encourages the phenomenon and deflects from the real failures of the government, a member of the government’s scientific advisory panel on behaviour has suggested.

Professor Stephen Reicher of St Andrew’s University referred back to an article he wrote in response to reports of panic buying at the start of the pandemic, which argued that consumers buying toilet rolls and other goods said to be at risk of shortage were not “panicked”, but displayed an “entirely reasonable” response to widespread descriptions of others acting in such a way.

Writing for the British Psychological Society, he said “the concept of ‘panic’ has largely been abandoned by those who study disasters since it neither describes nor explains what people do in such situations” as “people don’t generally act irrationally or selfishly in crises”.

“To the contrary, recent research emphasises how experiencing a common threat or danger can lead people to develop a sense of shared identity or ‘togetherness’ and, where this happens, it leads in turn to enhanced cooperation and support for others,” Prof Reicher said.

However, this “shared identity can be undermined by creating divisions and inducing competition between people”, he wrote, adding that stories employing the language of “panic” can “help create the selfishness and competitiveness which turns sensible preparations into dysfunctional stockpiling”.

In the end, ‘panic buying’ is just one more way of blaming the real failures of government on the imaginary failures of the public.

— Stephen Reicher (@ReicherStephen) September 24, 2021

‘No need for panic buying’, Road Haulage Association says

13:34 , Andy Gregory

The Road Haulage Association has urged people to be “sensible” and also to “consider, in the short term, whether their journeys are necessary”, my colleague Ben Chapman reports.

Kate Gibbs, head of communications, added: “There is no shortage of fuel. There is no need for panic buying or great queues outside petrol stations. That doesn’t help anybody.

“Fuel will get through, it will just take a bit longer. As long as people are sensible and they don’t panic buy they will be OK. If people don’t panic buy then there is no difference to the way people get their fuel.

Ms Gibbs questioned the assertion of Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, that Brexit was not a cause of a shortage of lorry drivers that has resulted in some forecourts running out of fuel.

“I find it a little bizarre. All of the issues like access to labour markets, visas, this is all within the government’s hands.”

UK newspapers reference ‘spectre’ of the 1970s and warn of ‘winter of woe chill’ for Boris Johnson

13:29 , Andy Gregory

Here’s some of the reaction to the supply chain crisis today in the UK media, which will likely make stark reading for the government.

In an editorial headlined “Boris will feel chill if UK has winter of woe”, the Daily Mail warned that “voters will drag him to Earth with a political bump if he fails to get a grip on the looming winter woes”.

And following the Bank of England’s prediction that inflation will peak at 4 per cent this winter,The Spectator’s political editor James Forsyth writes in The Times – under a headline claiming the “spectre of the Seventies haunts the Tories” – that “the cost of living is once again going to become the biggest issue in British politics”.

Meanwhile, BBC Newsnight’s policy editor Lewis Goodall suggests a “crisis of confidence is developing throughout the British economy”.

From gas to petrol to supermarket shelves, to other shortages; the big danger for the government is that a profound crisis of confidence is developing throughout the British economy.

— Lewis Goodall (@lewis_goodall) September 24, 2021

Germany’s gas supply is secure, officials say

13:06 , Conrad Duncan

Germany’s economy ministry has insisted that its gas supply is secure amid concerns in the UK and around the world over a spike in prices.

“Supply security in Germany remains high,” a spokesperson told Sky News, adding that the country’s gas storage, with a capacity of 24.6 billion cubic metres, was 64.69 per cent filled.

Long queues at petrol stations as fears grow over shortages

12:48 , Conrad Duncan

Despite calls for drivers not to stock up on fuel ahead of the weekend, long queues have been reported at petrol stations in England today.

One resident from Hertford told Sky News on Friday that drivers were “clearly getting frustrated” over the queues.

“For me I had to wait about 20 mins – it was pretty calm and everyone seemed very polite. People kindly moved their cars away from the pumps while they paid so others could keep the queue moving,” he said.

However, he added that when his wife went to get petrol later in the day, “the tailback was much longer and growing”.

You can find images below of queues in London and Brighton today:

© Provided by The Independent (AFP via Getty Images)
© Provided by The Independent (Getty Images)

ICYMI: Minister denies Brexit is behind HGV driver shortages

12:37 , Conrad Duncan

Earlier today, transport secretary Grant Shapps denied that Brexit was a key factor in the HGV driver shortages that have emerged in the UK and argued instead that it was helping to solve the problem.

“I’ve seen people point to Brexit as if it is the culprit here. In fact, they are wrong,” Mr Shapps told Sky News.

“Not only are there very large and even larger shortages in other EU countries like Poland and Germany, which clearly can’t be to do with Brexit, but actually because of Brexit I’ve been able to change the law and alter the way our driving tests operate in a way I could not have done if we were still part of the EU.”

However, the union Unite has accused the minister of talking “complete rubbish” over the claim, as they said Brexit had brought the crisis forward and made it much tougher for the UK.

You can find his comments in full below:

Those suggesting Brexit is the “culprit” to the problem of HGV driver shortages are “wrong”, says Grant Shapps, the politician responsible for keeping vehicles moving on the UK’s roads.

— Sky News (@SkyNews) September 24, 2021

Supply issues should not impact fuel prices for drivers, RAC spokesperson says

12:17 , Conrad Duncan

Supply issues currently affecting some petrol stations in the UK should not have an impact on the prices drivers pay to fill up their vehicles, an RAC spokesperson has insisted.

“The supply issues affecting a small number of petrol forecourts shouldn’t impact the prices drivers pay to fill up,” RAC fuel spokesperson Simon Williams said.

“But unfortunately the price of oil, which has the biggest influence on what drivers pay the pumps, is continuing to rise at the moment.

“This may lead to fuel prices going up in the coming days which would be yet more bad news for drivers as a litre of unleaded is already over 21p a litre more expensive than a year ago.”

‘The kingdom of empty shelves’: European newspapers blame Brexit for UK supply chain crisis

12:01 , Andy Gregory

Britain’s growing fuel and supply chain crisis – which has seen petrol stations closed, empty restaurants and supermarket shelves and the government forced to subsidise carbon dioxide production – has provoked significant comment in European newspapers, many of which are pointing to Brexit.

The front page of the French outlet Liberation featured a finished roll of toilet paper with the final sheet emblazoned with “Brexit”, above the headline “The future that failed to deliver”.

The German magazine Der Spiegel’s coverage of the issue was headlined: “In the kingdom of empty shelves” and warned supply bottlenecks could become even more drastic, writing: “After Brexit, migrant workers from Eastern Europe are no longer welcome in the UK. And so the country is now missing 100,000 truck drivers – and goods.”

And Barcelona-based daily La Vanguardia compared the empty shelves, closed KFCs, fruit rotting in the field and empty vending machines to “the boycotted Cuba”.

My colleague Tim Wyatt has more reaction from the continent:

© Provided by The Independent

European newspapers blame Brexit for UK supply chain crisis

11:33 , Andy Gregory

The Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association said it has contacted London’s City Hall to confirm that cabs remain on the emergency fuel supply register.

As we start to receive more and more reports of petrol stations running dry we have contacted City Hall to request confirmation that taxis (as an essential service) remain on the emergency fuel supply register from September 2000.

— The LTDA (@TheLTDA) September 24, 2021

AA tells drivers not to stock up with more fuel than usual ahead of weekend

11:22 , Andy Gregory

There is no fuel shortage and just a few forecourts are suffering temporary supply chain problems, with thousands operating normally, the AA’s president has said.

“Fridays and the weekend always tend to be busier on forecourts as drivers either combine filling up with shopping runs, prepare for weekend trips or refuel for the start of the new working week,” said Edmund King.

“Drivers should not fill up outside their normal routines because, even if the occasional petrol station is temporarily closed, others just down the road will be open.

“It is now clear that there have been occasional delays over recent weeks that have been managed with hardly anyone noticing. This was a manageable problem. Meanwhile road fuel demand is down to 92 per cent of pre-pandemic levels according to monitoring by the government.

“Also, the average pump price of petrol has risen half a penny in the past two days when it should be 2.5p lower after cheaper E10 (10 per cent ethanol) became the standard petrol on forecourts on 1 September.”

11:17 , Andy Gregory

You can now keep up to speed with the latest breaking news via a newly-launched newsletter from The Independent, which delivers a maximum of two of the most urgent and important updates straight to your inbox every day.

If you’d like to receive a quick and timely digest of the top stories setting the agenda, you can also sign up to our Morning Headlines newsletter here.

11:09 , Andy Gregory

Our friends at Statista have created this graph based on Office for National Statistics data, which shows how the estimated number of lorry drivers in the UK has fallen in recent years.

© Provided by The Independent (Statista/The Independent) 11:03 , Andy Gregory

Several of the UK’s largest businesses and industry bodies have recently requested that government relax visa requirements to help ease the lorry driver shortage, according to a report from our economics editor Anna Isaac and Joe Middleton.

Calls from Morrisons and Ocado for the government to add HGV drivers to its skills shortage jobs list, to allow EU workers to fill the shortfall, were investigated but not implemented following pressure from the Home Office.

BP is understood to have asked the government for similar support on a temporary basis.

© Provided by The Independent

BP and Esso petrol stations closed as lorry driver shortage hits UK

10:46 , Andy Gregory

While ministers and industry experts have urged motorists to refuel as normal, assuring the public that there is no shortage of petrol itself, some forecourts have reportedly seen queues and panic buying this morning.

© Provided by The Independent Motorists queue for petrol at a Sainsbury’s service station in Tonbridge (Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty Images)

‘Complete rubbish’ that Brexit part of solution to lorry driver shortage

10:21 , Andy Gregory

Unite the Union has accused the transport secretary of talking “complete rubbish” in claiming that Brexit is part of the solution to the current lorry driver shortage.

“Brexit has meant the crisis brewing has been brought forward and it has hit much, much harder. To say that Brexit is part of the solution makes no sense,” spokesperson Barckley Sumner said.

“The only solution is to make lorry driving a more attractive profession. When you have people driving for 10 hours a day, they are away from home for up to 15 hours, we’ve got thousands of drivers leaving the profession, the number of people not allowed to drive because of medical conditions has doubled in a decade.

“We need minimum standards of welfare and conditions. The supermarkets have driven this situation by driving down pay and conditions. Now they want temporary visas so they can have a return to cheap labour.”

He also said he believed that fuel supply issues would be temporary, adding: “Driving a tanker requires extra qualifications and they are the best paid in the industry.”

Government has ‘failed to heed warnings for a decade’, Labour says

10:07 , Andy Gregory

Labour’s shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon has described the situation as a “rapidly worsening crisis” which the government had “failed to heed the warnings of for a decade”.

He said: “Sticking plaster solutions are not going to solve it. Ministers must take decisive steps now to tackle the 90,000-driver shortfall. If they fail to take action, the responsibility for every empty shelf, every vital medicine not delivered and every supplier not able to meet demand lies at the Conservatives’ door.”

09:54 , Andy Gregory

My colleague Adam Forrest has more details on the possibility of the military being drafted in as lorry drivers if the supply chain crisis worsens.

© Provided by The Independent

Soldiers could be drafted in as lorry drivers to combat fuel crisis, says minister

Sector working to ensure majority of customers retain access to fuel, industry body says

09:50 , Andy Gregory

The fuel supply chain “is resilient and fuel is currently getting to the vast majority of consumers”, the UK Petroleum Industry Association has said, adding: “The sector will keep working to ensure that remains the case.”

“There have been a few confirmed reports of temporary forecourt grade-outs in parts of the UK,” a spokesperson for the trade association said.

“These have been caused by some delays in the supply chain due to haulier driver shortages, which are not unique to the downstream sector but are being seen across the economy. Industry and government will continue to work together to reinforce the sector’s workforce to ensure fuel and other supply chains remain strong for years to come.”

Comparisons drawn with fuel blockade of autumn 2000

09:42 , Andy Gregory

The situation “looks like a tougher challenge” for officials than during the fuel blockade of autumn 2000, a Gordon Brown-era Downing Street adviser has suggested.

In September 2000, when the sequence was fuel protests = disruption = panic buying = severe shortages, we at least had the option to deal with the protests, which changed people’s mentality about the need to panic buy. It looks like a tougher challenge this time.

— Damian McBride (@DPMcBride) September 23, 2021

While the Labour government of the day was able to focus on tackling the clear cause of the disruption – protests in response to rising fuel costs and ministers’ refusal to rule out a cut in fuel duties – the current crisis appears far more complex.

The fundamental problem with domestic driver supply isn’t so much wages, which are relatively high – especially for fuel tankers. It’s conditions. And that takes a long time to fix.

— Ian Dunt (@IanDunt) September 24, 2021

Coventry petrol station owner reports panic buying

09:24 , Andy Gregory

Paul Cheema, the owner of a petrol station in Coventry’s Tile Hill area, has told Good Morning Britain that “already this morning we’ve seen panic buying”, after running out of unleaded fuel at 5:30pm yesterday.

“We’ve had to switch off the diesel lane already because people have gone crazy, when there’s really no need to panic buy because there’s plenty of fuel there, we just need drivers,” Mr Cheema said.

“As soon as the yellow cover goes on the nozzles, the customer’s driving straight past. We’re also losing that income inside the store.”

‘Already this morning we’ve seen panic buying.’

Paul says his petrol station is already suffering from a loss of business because of the lack of fuel.#GMB

— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) September 24, 2021

Brexit ‘part of the solution’ to lorry driver shortage, claims minister

09:07 , Andy Gregory

Grant Shapps has denied that Brexit is part of the problem behind the shortage of lorry drivers – arguing that Britain’s divorce from the EU had presented solutions to the crisis.

My colleague Adam Forrest has the full story here:

© Provided by The Independent

Brexit ‘part of the solution’ to lorry driver shortage, claims minister

What is Operation Escalin?

09:01 , Andy Gregory

Ministers have discussed putting soldiers on standby to drive petrol tankers, in plans only to be enacted if the situation deteriorates significantly, The Times reported.

These contingency plans, known as Operation Escalin, were set up prior to Brexit, and planned for 1,600 soldiers to be drafted in to drive 80 military fuel tankers to keep fuel flowing to forecourt in the event of no deal, according to The Guardian.

Minister doesn’t rule out bringing in military or relaxing visa rules

08:54 , Andy Gregory

Grant Shapps has said he will move “heaven and Earth” to fix the supply chain crisis – including considering bringing in the military and easing visa rules for HGV drivers.

“I’ll do anything which actually helps,” the transport secretary told the BBC’s Today programme. “The big query actually is where is the blockage? What we do know is that there are a lot of people who have their HGV licences but many of which will have lapsed to come out of the market, often because there has been cheaper European labour. We want to get those people back in.”

He added: “With regard to things like whether there’s a role for military, obviously, if there is, if that actually helps we’ll bring them in.”

But Mr Shapps said that changing visa rules to allow foreign drivers in would not necessarily help solve the problem.

“What I don’t want to do and I’ve been hinting at this, is undercut with, as has happened before, cheaper European drivers, and then find our drivers drop out,” he said.

Motorists should ‘carry on as normal’, Shapps says

08:46 , Andy Gregory

Grant Shapps has said motorists should “carry on as normal” and that the issue should “smooth out fairly quickly”.

“The advice would be to carry on as normal, and that is what BP is saying as well,” the transport secretary told Sky News.

“They describe it on the average day that they have a handful of petrol stations that they had to close out of twelve or thirteen hundred.

“The problem is not new. There has been a lack of drivers for many months through this pandemic because during the lockdown drivers couldn’t be passed through their lorry HGV tests, and that is what has led to this problem.

“But many more tests are being made available now, so we should see it smooth out fairly quickly.”

08:42 , Andy Gregory

Some of the UK’s biggest petrol station operators have warned of a shortage of fuel at the forecourt, with BP forced to close a number of stations and ExxonMobil saying a “small number” of its Esso petrol forecourts have also been affected.

Hoyer, one of the UK’s largest fuel logistics companies, has revealed it is struggling to meet deliveries for a host of clients including BP, Esso and Shell due to driver shortages.

BP‘s head of UK retail, Hanna Hofer, described the situation as “bad, very bad” and warned the government it was important they grasp the “urgency of the situation”. Ms Hofer said the company had “two-thirds of normal forecourt stock levels required for smooth operations” and told ITV News the level is “declining rapidly”.

Under emergency plans, BP will provide 80 per cent of its normal service levels to nine in 10 of its petrol stations, meaning that a range of locations will not be restocked for one and a half days each week.

My colleagues Anna Isaac and Joe Middleton have more details here:

© Provided by The Independent

BP and Esso petrol stations closed as lorry driver shortage hits UK

08:34 , Andy Gregory

Good morning, we’ll be using this liveblog to provide rolling updates on the supply chain crisis which has seen some petrol stations across the country forced to close.

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