The Oklahoman

UK may use army to ease gas shortage at pumps

- Jill Lawless

LONDON – Lines of cars formed at British gas stations for a fourth day on Monday, as the government mulled sending in the army to help ease supply disruption­s triggered by a shortage of truck drivers.

As unions called for emergency workers to be given priority for fuel supplies, Petrol Retailers Associatio­n Chairman Brian Madderson said training had been taking place “in the background” for military personnel to drive tankers.

The government said it had “no plans at the moment” to deploy troops, but was making preparatio­ns just in case. Government ministers met Monday to discuss the fuel squeeze.

The Petrol Retailers Associatio­n, which represents almost 5,500 independen­t outlets, said Sunday that about two-thirds of its members had run out of fuel, as the truck driver shortage set off rounds of gas panicbuyin­g.

Long lines of vehicles have formed at many gas stations around Britain since Friday, causing spillover traffic jams on busy roads. Tempers have frayed as some drivers waited for hours.

The Conservati­ve government insisted the U.K. had “ample fuel stocks,” and blamed the problems on consumer behavior.

“The only reason we don’t have petrol on the forecourts is that people are buying petrol they don’t need,” said Environmen­t Secretary George Eustice.

Major fuel firms, including BP, Shell and Esso, said in a joint statement that they expected demand for gas to “return to its normal levels in the coming days.”

“We would encourage people to buy fuel as they usually would,” the statement said.

But critics urged the government to get fuel flowing so the shortage does not have damaging spillover effects on health care, police operations and other crucial sectors.

Dr. Chaand Nagpaul at the British Medical Associatio­n said health care workers and other essential services staff should be “given priority access to fuel so they can continue their crucial work and guarantee care to patients.”

Christina McAnea, general secretary of the Unison trade union, urged the government to use its emergency powers to designate gas stations for key workers.

“Ambulance crews, nurses, care workers, teaching assistants, police staff and other key workers mustn’t be left stranded or forced to queue for hours simply to get to a pump,” she said.

The haulage industry says the U.K. is short as many as 100,000 truckers, due to a perfect storm of factors including the coronaviru­s pandemic, an aging workforce and an exodus of foreign workers following Britain’s departure from the European Union last year. Post-Brexit immigratio­n rules mean EU citizens can no longer live and work visa-free in Britain, as they could when the U.K. was a member of the bloc.

Several other countries, including the United States and Germany, also are experienci­ng a shortage of truck drivers.

But the problem has been especially visible in Britain, where it has contribute­d to empty supermarke­t shelves and shuttered gas pumps.

 ?? JON SUPER/AP ?? Closed pumps are seen Monday at a gas station in Manchester, England, that has run out of fuel after an outbreak of panic buying.
JON SUPER/AP Closed pumps are seen Monday at a gas station in Manchester, England, that has run out of fuel after an outbreak of panic buying.

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