BP prepares to ration fuel deliveries as some petrol stations close over supply problems

BP is struggling to transport fuel - ITV News Business Editor Joel Hills asks how this serious this situation is

BP has told the government that it plans to restrict deliveries of petrol and diesel to its network of service stations to ensure continuity of supply. The company’s ability to transport fuel from refineries to its network of forecourts is being impacted by the ongoing shortage of HGV drivers. At a meeting, organised by the Cabinet Office last Thursday, BP’s Head of UK Retail, Hanna Hofer, said it was important that government understood the “urgency of the situation” which she described as “bad, very bad”.

According to Hofer, BP has “two thirds of normal forecourt stock levels required for smooth operations” and that level is “declining rapidly”.

HGV driver shortages are not unique to the UK, the government said. Credit: ITV News

The company is preparing to restrict deliveries “very soon”.

This will mean running 80% of services levels to 90% of BP’s forecourt network and that most locations, as a result, will not be restocked for one-and-a-half days a week.

Forecourts on motorways will be prioritised and will be restocked as normal.

BP doesn’t employ any HGV drivers directly, it outsources deliveries to Hoyer, an independent haulier. BP has approximately 45 drivers coming through in training but the company is also experiencing high rates of attrition. In the week beginning September 6, 10 drivers joined and six left. BP says it is hopeful that fuels stocks at forecourts will stabilise and start to rebuild at some point in October but Hofer said: “We are are expecting the next few weeks to be really, really difficult.”

What's the solution to the crisis?

The company has asked the government to help address the driver shortage by making it easier to temporarily recruit HGV drivers from abroad. What BP is experiencing is the petrol station equivalent of an empty supermarket shelf.

There’s no shortage of petrol or diesel, BP is simply having difficulty transporting fuel from distribution terminals to forecourts.

My understanding is that, every week, the company is currently experiencing “tens” of what it calls “stock outs” at the 1,200 sites it supplies. When this happens forecourts are coned off and temporarily closed.

A view of a BP petrol station. Credit: PA

In a statement, a spokesperson for BP said: “We are experiencing fuel supply issues at some of our retail sites in the UK and unfortunately have therefore seen a handful of sites temporarily close due to a lack of both unleaded and diesel grades.

"These have been caused by delays in the supply chain, which has been impacted by industry-wide driver shortages across the UK and we are working hard to address this issue.

"We continue to work with our haulier supplier to minimise disruption and to ensure efficient and effective deliveries to serve our customers. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.” When asked about the government planned to respond, the minister for small business, Paul Scully told ITV News: “We are concerned about BP and other sectors where we are hearing those stresses coming to bear.

"This is why we are having regular conversations to see what government can do to increase testing, to increase the supply of drivers and bring drivers back. We also want to see what the industry/ sector can do for themselves.”