MPs say lockdown is behind fuel shortage at petrol stations

Two county MPs say the prolonged impact of lockdown and Covid are some of the reasons behind the current fuel issues hitting the country.

County MPs have said that Covid and lockdown have played a part in leading to shortages of HGV drivers
County MPs have said that Covid and lockdown have played a part in leading to shortages of HGV drivers

Both Telford MP Lucy Allan and Ludlow MP Philip Dunne have said they believe the challenges of Covid have led to the situation where the country is short of HGV drivers.

It comes as there have been suggestions that the lack of European drivers – as a result of Brexit – has also played a significant part, with the government setting up a scheme for 5,000 EU drivers to work in the country up until Christmas in response to the situation.

Mr Dunne said that the government has moved to address the issue, but that the disruption to driving tests over the past 18 months – and the retirement of older HGV drivers, had led to problems for the industry.

He said the government was looking at whether military drivers could be used to alleviate the situation.

He said: "The government has taken some immediate steps and medium term measures to resolve the driver shortage such as trying to establish if there are qualified military personnel to act as drivers."

He added: "I am not an expert in this area but it appears one of the consequences of Covid is that some drivers, where traditionally in the haulage trade they are often of an older age, have retired and are not being replaced for a number of reasons. The main one is young people have lost interest in it as a career. Also the driving test facilities have been knocked by Covid, with fewer tests taking place over the last year. That is now being addressed."

Mr Dunne said he believed that younger people had been favouring a move to delivery van driving, which did not require time away from the family or overnight work.

Ms Allan also said it was understandable that people had been queuing for petrol when they live in an area where it is a requirement to get to and from work.

She said: "Telford is a car town – with our expressways and roundabouts, Telford is a new town designed for the car. The road layout is difficult for pedestrians and cyclists the public transport is poor. We need our cars for work, for food shopping, for getting children to school, so it should be no surprise that when we learn that fuel deliveries are delayed, like many people right across the country, we go and fill up our car.

SHREW COPYRIGHT SHROPSHIRE STAR STEVE LEATH 21/09/2021..Pic in Shrewsbury at the Petrol Station at Sainsburys Meole Brace where people were qued up. Stations at Church Streetton, Craven Arms and BP at Meole Brace were ok though..

"Telford is isolated by a rural hinterland, 50 minutes from Birmingham by train, which adds to a strong sense of local identity, but also creates a sense of being poorly connected. We know we are dependent on the car. If you need your car for work, it’s perfectly rational to queue as long as it takes to put fuel in the tank. We don’t have a choice."

Ms Allan also said that she believed lockdown had played a major part in leading to the current disruption.

She said: "The impact of Covid was always going to take time to unwind. After such a lengthy shut down the return to normal would never be instantaneous. Pent up demand, disrupted supply chains has resulted in a shortage of supply in many sectors. This is pushing up prices and creating difficulties getting products to consumers.

"Some HGV drivers, having been stood down during lockdown, then retired, or went home or left the profession. New entrants have not replaced them as training didn't happen, getting tested and securing a licence has been almost impossible due to lockdown and industrial action at the DVLA. Some drivers are understandably put off by the bureaucracy and poor working conditions and have moved to delivery van driving.

"There are shortages of workers across a number of sectors. Our behaviours have changed, we got off the treadmill, people are re-evaluating their lives. No one should be surprised that a ‘just in time’ economy has been derailed by a prolonged and painful shut down.

"Lockdown has created unforeseen challenges, some we know about, others we are just discovering. The aftermath of Covid will take time to fix, but fix it we will.”

Wrekin MP Mark Pritchard said: "The reasons are multiple and challenging but with the right response fuel deliveries can soon get back to normal. It needs both a private and public sector response. For many in Shropshire fuel is a necessity not a luxury."

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