If you’ve been awake for the last week in the UK you’ll be well aware by now of the purported fuel and food shortages sold to us by our ever-wise media.
The front cover of many a newspaper spoke of the incoming fuel shortage, citing a lack of HGV drivers to deliver the stuff around the place. While it’s true the country is experiencing a shortage of HGV drivers, there was never an actual shortage of fuel – just a fear of one.
And this is really where this story got going. Once people are convinced there’s going to be a petrol shortage, what will they do? Politely use up the remainder of their tank, mindfully aware of all the other people who might need it more than them?
Of course not! The first port of call for many was to fill up their tanks as much as possible. The omnibenevolent fuel industry quickly took note, salivating over this sudden surge in demand, and jacked up the price of fuel across the board. What a great time to be BP!
While an actual food shortage remains yet to be seen, a real fuel shortage is now upon us. All my local stations are out – and not because there’s no fuel to go around – all the fuel they had available has been bought… Until they receive their next delivery.
The problem is multi-faceted but is certainly not one that’s come out of the blue. In fact, the RHA, the UK’s road operations trade association, predicted a shortage of some 60,000 HGV drivers before the pandemic hit in March 2019.
A report penned by the association breaks the shortage down into five main causes, most of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic:
None of these problems look like they will be solved immediately; a deficit of some 100,000 drivers cannot be fixed overnight.
Thankfully, over the weekend the government announced a total u-turn to its stance, pivoting from “we’ll sort this out ourselves” to “we’ll offer temporary three-month working visas to any EU driver kind enough to please come back to us as quickly as possible, thanks!”. Up to 10,000 visas are available, split evenly between the fuel and food logistics industries, and this will hopefully help plug some of the leaks in the system… At least until Christmas. But is anyone seriously going to leave a full-time job at home to come and work here for just three months?
Over the coming weeks and months, whether we like it or not, many of us will be forced to change the way we operate day-to-day to accommodate this hiccup in the country’s logistics. Many of us will be forced to ditch our cars, perhaps opting to work from home, go by bike and foot or to take public transport instead.
And, as we approach Christmas, perhaps many will be forced not to indulge in the season’s usual decadence. To be clear – we will not run out of food. Some people, however, may not be able to have the two-meat roasts they’re accustomed to – maybe some might even be forced into visiting their local butcher for a more locally sourced bird.
Fear is the most persuasive emotion when it comes to storytelling, and this is why the world can often appear a pretty grim place when you immerse yourself in the news outlets of the world 24/7.
A mindful approach to consumption will be what ensures everyone gets a good shot at getting what they want in the next few months, be that fuel or turkey. Many supermarkets continue to operate as normal and, if shoppers continue to shop normally, there is no reason why this can’t continue with the current level of drivers.
Interesting times for sure, but let’s not panic.
Several factors have exacerbated the shortage of HGV drivers which is now at a crisis point (up to 100,000)