Drivers across the UK have been rushing to gas stations over the past two days amid concerns petrol may run out due to the lack of qualified HGV drivers restocking. BP, Shell, and the Government have all urged motorists not to panic but appeals have gone unanswered as hundreds began queueing up to fill up their cars as well as jerry cans. A fight broke out between two groups of “screaming” men at a Shell gas station in the Hilsea area of Portsmouth.
One man who witnessed the skirmish around 8.30 am on Saturday said the exchange was “utter madness.”
He said: “People were queuing throughout the night. Pumps are almost dry.
“I witnessed a tussle on the forecourt between two groups of men, screaming and shouting at each other.
“One group got into their van and drove off out of the city as the other group gave chase and hurled stones at the retreating van.
“It’s utter madness.”
AA president Edmund King said the shortage of petrol had been exacerbated by “people going out and filling up when they really don’t need to”.
Mr King said: “If you think about it, 30 million cars out there, if they’ve all got half a tank (and) if they all rush out to fill up the rest of the tank and the tank is about 60 litres, that will put a strain on the system.
The good news is you can only really fill up once – you’ve got to use the fuel, so this should be a short-term thing,” he said.
“It’s not like the fuel crises in the past when the supplier was hit by strikes, etc.
“So, once people have filled up, they won’t travel more than they normally travel, so this strain on the system should ease up in the next few days.”
Lincolnshire Police have urged drivers to be “sensible” about filling up at petrol stations after long queues built up around the region.
In a statement, the force said: “We have received reports this morning of long queues at some petrol stations in the county.
“This is a potential hazard for vehicles making other journeys, and may cause difficulties for emergency services trying to reach people in need.
“While we appreciate that some people may be particularly keen to fill up their vehicles this weekend, we would respectfully ask motorists to be sensible when making judgements about joining a queue at a petrol station.
“If it is too long, consider returning at a different time.”
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The UK’s Road Haulage Association (RHA) says Britain needs 100,000 more drivers if it is to meet demand. The driver shortage has been caused partly by Brexit and COVID-19, and the loss of about a year of driver training and testing.
“We’re looking at temporary measures to avoid any immediate problems, but any measures we introduce will be very strictly time-limited,” a spokeswoman for Johnson’s Downing Street office said in a statement.
Downing Street declined to give further details.
Ministers have cautioned against panic buying, and oil companies say there is no shortage of supplies, merely problems delivering the fuel to the gas stations.