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Drivers' shortage leads to fuel, food crises in UK, no end in sight

Hundreds of military drivers have started delivering fuel supplies to filling stations as the UK is facing an acute shortage of drivers leading to fuel and food shortages in the country. On the food front it's a double whamy. Panic buying has led to price rise, not only of petrol, but all essentials. There are street protests demanding food supplies. An economic crisis is looming large. In fact, the problem was building up even before the pandemic began, but the Government did not see it coming! It happened earlier in 1970.

LONDON, Oct 6: Hundreds of military drivers have been deployed since Monday to deliver petrol supplies to pumps to tackle UK's fuel crisis caused by truck drivers' shortage with very little impact. There are long queues and pump closures leading to chaotic scenes at filling stations across the country. Panic buying has led to an additional problem of profiteering by artificial hikes in prices by retailers. A major crisis is loomimng large. Two-thirds of a total of UK's 8,000 filling stations had run dry but by Monday, after the military personnel were deployed, the situation at the pumps eased to 26% on Tuesday.

More military personnel were being trained to handle the supplies in what is termed Operation Escalin. The training job has been assigned to a logistics company. The first tanker left the Bencefield oil depot in Hemel Hempstead for London early on Monday morning. But a permanent solution seems to be eluding.

The acute driver shortage has also affected the food supplies and supremarkets are empty leading to a food crisis. There were street protests asking for food. The problem is escalating across most industries as well, and is gradually infecting the whole working class. It threatens to become a long term problem. Europe is also facing the problem of labour shortage, especially Poland and Germany, but to a lesser extent.

Johnson's warning

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned the disruption in supplies may spill over to Christmas.

Just one other fallout of the fuel crisis is breakdowns due running out of petrol and usage of wrong fuel which are increasing even as the fuel is plenty at the refineries. BP and Shell have said they have enough.

Essential service workers are asking for priority outlets at the filling stations, and they are supported by the pump retailers. But who will decide which is an emergency need? Some people blame the media for fueling the chaos at the filling stations, BBC reported.

Reasons for shortage of drivers

There is a shortage of 100,000 lorry drivers in the country across sectors. There are several reasons for the shortage of drivers. European Union workers in the UK left for good because of Brexit and covid. Of course, Europe is also plagued by the problem. Besides, due to covid usual tests and training for new drivers could not be held since last year. Then again, enough people are not opting for the job as the working conditions like wages, working hours and facilities are quite discouraging.

10,000 visas for drivers

Last week the Government decided to relax the immigration rules and recruit drivers from abroad. At least 10,000 visas are likely to be issued for drivers to avert a crisis around Christmas. But the Prime Minister wants to solve the issue by paying higher wages to local drivers. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps also says, "We do have to stand on our own two feet." That is, pay more and recruit more. But that will take time and the problems will linger on.

On a larger scale, labour shortage is crippling the economy. Half of the companies don't have enough workers. An economic crisis is looming large.

However, in Ireland the situation is different, the problem is not there as much. The conditions like pay and working hours are attractive with the result that there is no dearth of recruitments. Besides, Ireland is not depending on EU drivers.

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