Is there a fuel shortage in the UK and why are petrol stations closing?

Credit: PA

Refilling with fuel remains problematic for many drivers around the country after ITV News first revealed issues with supply more than a week ago.

Some petrol stations in the UK have been forced to temporarily closed, with BP and Esso warning of petrol and diesel shortages at some of its stations.

Others have rationed the amount of fuel customers can buy and prioritised key workers.

The situation has been made worse by a spate of panic-buying as long queues of motorists have been forming outside petrol stations.

Now the army is being drafted in to deliver fuel to stations amid a shortage of HGV drivers.

Is there a fuel shortage in the UK?

There’s no shortage of petrol or diesel in the UK.

The shortage at petrol stations is caused by issues with transporting fuel from distribution terminals to forecourts.

Despite announcing the drafting in of the military for assistance, business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has insisted the situation is "slowly improving".

"It’s important to stress there is no national shortage of fuel in the UK, and people should continue to buy fuel as normal," he said on Friday night.

In a separate joint statement from the likes of Shell, ExxonMobile and Greenergy, the industry reiterated that the pressures on supply were being caused by “temporary spikes in customer demand, not a national shortage of fuel.”

But Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) – representing independent filling stations – said otherwise, warning on Saturday that shortages are getting worse in some parts of the county.

Brian Madderson told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme: "We do need a prioritisation of deliveries to filling stations – particularly the independent ones which are the neighbourhood retail sites – in London and the South East starting immediately."

BP Fuel lorry being is checked at its Coryton Bulk Terminal Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA

Why are petrol stations closing?

Due to the difficulties with transport fuel, BP told the government at the end of September it would restrict deliveries of petrol and diesel to ensure continuity of supply.

BP’s Head of UK Retail, Hanna Hofer, told ministers this will mean running 80% of services levels to 90% of BP’s forecourts and that most locations, as a result, will not be restocked for one-and-a-half days a week.

But she said forecourts on motorways will be prioritised and will be restocked as normal.

Ms Hofer said every week the company is experiencing “tens” of “stock outs” at the 1,200 sites it supplies. When this happens forecourts are coned off and temporarily closed.

Why are there supply issues?

The issues with transporting fuel to petrol stations is caused by the ongoing shortage of HGV drivers.

BP doesn’t employ any lorry 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 - when staff leave and are not replaced. In the week beginning September 6, ten drivers joined and six left.

Earlier this month the Road Haulage Association (RHA) told ITV News the government's plans to accelerate the training of HGV drivers was a "step in the right direction".

But, Richard Burnett, CEO of the RHA, added: "We haven't got a cat in hell's chance of solving this problem unless we have access to temporary foreign labour in the short term to recruit a UK-based workforce for the longer term."

An out of use sign on a petrol pump at a BP garage on Speke Hall Road, Liverpool on September 23 Credit: Peter Byrne/PA

What is being done?

BP called on the government to help address the driver shortage by making it easier to temporarily recruit HGV drivers from abroad.

BP said it is hopeful fuel stocks at forecourts will stabilise and start to rebuild at some point in October.

On Friday night, the government said nearly 200 military personnel will be deployed as a temporary fix.

A number of other measures will be brought in too, including temporary visas for foreign drivers, new training courses, and a pledge to improve working conditions and lorry parking facilities.

The scheme has, however, faced some criticism for not being enough to solve the impending crisis over the Christmas period.

Labour's Sir Keir Starmer has pressured the government to act more quickly, stressing: "I don’t want people in this country to have another Christmas ruined by this Prime Minister’s lack of planning".

The government has also temporarily suspended competition laws in a bid to get a grip on the fuel shortages, hoping the move will encourage fuel suppliers to share information so they can target areas where fuel supply is running low.