Irish truckers doubt British measures to attract drivers will work

Petrol station pumps have run dry in major British cities as drivers queued for hours to fill their cars.
Irish truckers doubt British measures to attract drivers will work

A man carrying fuel containers at a Tesco Petrol Station in Bracknell, England. Picture: PA Wire

Irish truckers say they remain confident that the huge disruption evident in Britain delivering to petrol stations will not be repeated on this side of the Irish Sea because the haulage industry had acted quickly to diversify in the run-up to Brexit. 

Aidan Flynn, general manager at industry group Freight Transport Association Ireland, said the scale of the driver shortages in Britain that has led to panic buying of fuel was mostly caused by the fallout from Brexit, as many British firms had failed to adequately prepare before the hard-Brexit deal struck in late December.    

Aidan Flynn, general manager of Freight Transport Association Ireland.
Aidan Flynn, general manager of Freight Transport Association Ireland.

The comments came as petrol station pumps ran dry in major British cities and suppliers rationed sales as a shortage of truckers saw supply chains strained to breaking point in the world's fifth-largest economy.

The rapid opening up of European economies following the Covid-19 crisis had led to strains on global supply chains, but Britain in particular relied on continental European truck drivers, who had not returned after the Covid-19 crisis amid the UK's exit from the single market, Mr Flynn said.               

The Irish trucking boss said there were no such serious shortages in Ireland, and the industry did not anticipate problems in the run-up to Christmas, even though 30% of international drivers in Ireland are non-Irish nationals.  

He said some drivers had gone back to eastern Europe from Ireland during the Covid-19 crisis, but there had been "no mass exodus".  

Britain had not prepared sufficiently for the huge changes, Mr Flynn said, while Ireland had put a lot of investment in diversifying supply chains from its over-dependence on British suppliers in preparation for Brexit. 

British emergency measures to attract drivers from mainland Europe for the Christmas rush were unlikely to work, Mr Flynn added. 

A dire post-Brexit shortage of lorry drivers in Britain revealed as the Covid-19 pandemic eases has sown chaos through British supply chains in everything from food to fuel, raising the spectre of disruptions and price rises as Christmas approaches.

Drivers queued for hours to fill their cars at petrol stations that were still serving fuel, albeit often rationed, and there were calls for NHS workers to be given priority, to keep hospitals open as the pandemic continues.

Pumps across British cities were either closed or had signs saying fuel was unavailable yesterday, Reuters reporters said, with some limiting the amount of fuel each customer could buy.

The UK's Petrol Retailers Association, which represents independent fuel retailers which now account for 65% of all UK forecourts, said members had reported that 50% to 90% of pumps were dry in some areas.

"We need some calm," Gordon Balmer, executive director of the PRA, who warned against panic-buying.  

Shell said it had seen higher-than-usual demand for fuel across its British network and that some sites were running low on some grades of fuel. 

Irish Examiner with additional reporting by Reuters

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