Fuel supply crisis: What you need to know about the petrol shortage in the Midlands

Words by ITV News Central Production Journalist Bron Mills

Seeing the petrol light flash up on the dashboard is never a nice experience, but over the last few days, it has been increasingly challenging to get fuel for your car.

Here's everything you need to know about what has led to the fuel shortage in the Midlands and how companies and key workers are being affected.

Is there a fuel shortage?

No, not at first. The issues began when BP began to 'ration' fuel deliveries as some petrol stations close over supply problems.

The company’s ability to transport fuel from refineries to its network of forecourts is being impacted by the ongoing shortage of HGV drivers.

However, since people have been travelling to petrol stations to refuel across the Midlands in recent days, many have completely run out of petrol and diesel.

Malcolm's petrol station, which is based in Tile Hill in Coventry, was one of the first to run out of fuel completely.

'We've got no fuel to sell...we had the police and fire brigade phoning us for fuel,' Petrol business owner says

Paul Cheema, Owner - Malcolm's, Tile Hill

The owner Paul Cheema has reminded customers there isn't a shortage of fuel, but a shortage of drivers which is affecting fuel supply.

Mr Cheema told ITV News Central: "We've got nothing, we're running on about 8% now so we've had to close the site down this morning."

"We've got no fuel to sell, but that's had a major impact on the shop. Yesterday, we had the police and the fire brigade phoning us for fuel," he added.

However, Environment Secretary George Eustice has said: "The only reason we don’t have petrol on the forecourts is that people are buying petrol they don’t need."

Is the fuel shortage affecting emergency services and key workers?

Yes. SNP Medical, a Leicestershire-based private ambulance company, was at risk of closing before Prince Petroleum stepped in to provide them with fuel.

Both companies have said the current fuel crisis has been a huge challenge for both their firms.

Speaking to ITV News Central, a doctor also revealed on Monday she had to hitchhike to work after running out of fuel on the motorway.

Is it impacting schools?

Some headteachers are concerned their staff and pupils will be unable to travel to and from school.

A headteacher from Derby said several members of her teaching staff will struggle to get to work tomorrow because of the fuel crisis.

She has described it as a "double whammy" effect, in terms of numbers of staff sickness and PCR test waiting times as well as the difficulty in getting fuel, means the situation is untenable.

She fears the school may have to return to online learning because of the current fuel climate.

Has the shortage of fuel affected deliveries?

A small business in Nuneaton has told ITV News Central they are concerned about the amount of diesel they have. They added that for small businesses, failed deliveries can have a huge impact.

Jo Williams, who owns Terry's Bed Centre, said: "We are on just under a quarter of a tank and we have jobs to do tomorrow."

"We deliver beds and with some customers coming out of hospital, they need the beds. So where are we going to find diesel for the van?"

Can you drive with the low fuel light on?

Running out of fuel is not illegal. But, any careless or dangerous driving that results from it could see you punished under the law with a fine of up to £5,000. For example, if you were to join the M6 whilst running on empty - it could be seen as careless or dangerous.

According to Midlands-based RAC, if you're forced to stop in the road and cause an obstruction, "you could receive a penalty of £100 and three points on your licence."

"If your empty fuel tank leads to a road traffic collision you could be issued with nine points and a fine. Careless driving carries an unlimited fine, which could run up to around £5,000 and up to nine penalty points."

The RAC advise that you should find a "safe place to pull over and turn your hazard lights on" if you run out of fuel. If it should happen on a motorway, you need to exit your car and walk away from the hard shoulder. It is not advisable to walk to a service or petrol station.

"Don’t risk driving when your tank is set to run out completely: call for recovery."

Can I fill up my tank?

The government's advice is to return to your normal fuelling habits.

Although, some petrol stations have introduced caps on fuel, setting a maximum amount allowed per vehicle.

How has the government responded to the fuel crisis?

As well as encouraging the public to return to their normal fuel buying habits, the government has agreed to temporarily suspend competition law in a bid to get a grip on the fuel shortages being driven by panic-buying motorists.

Ministers hope the move will encourage fuel suppliers to share information so they can target areas where fuel supply is running low.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has explained the government has brought in the army to help with HGV testing, as well as creating a new apprenticeship scheme and changed the law for faster HGV testing.