Friday, September 24, 2021

Don't panic!

 When Corporal Jones said "don't panic", that is exactly what he did. It was one of Clive Dunn's famous phrases from Dad's Army. 

For weeks now, we have been reading about empty shelves in British supermarkets. Now it seems that some petrol stations are having to close because of lack of fuel. 

The official line is that there is no shortage of food and no shortage of fuel. In fact large quantities of food are having to be thrown away. 

Like Corporal Jones, Downing Street says, "don't panic". Well we know exactly what the effect of a statement like that is. If you see empty shelves at the supermarket and the garage has no petrol, what conclusion are you meant to draw? It doesn't matter what the reason is, you don't want to be the one caught out. Even if your supermarket or garage hasn't already  been affected, it could be next.

The issue is a shortage of drivers to deliver the goods. A figure or 100,000 is being quoted by industry bosses.  

The reasons are complex. The blame seems to lie between poor working conditions. BREXIT and the pandemic. 

Covid is certainly part of the problem. As travel became increasingly restricted last year, and large parts of the economy shut down, many European drivers went home. And haulage companies say very few have returned.

The pandemic has also created a large backlog in HGV driver tests, so it's been impossible to get enough new drivers up and running.

There is evidence of HGV driver shortages across Europe, but the UK has been among the hardest hit by the problem.

When the UK was part of the single market, drivers used to be able to come and go as they pleased.

But the additional border bureaucracy after Brexit meant it was too much hassle for many of them to drive into and out of the UK.

Many drivers are paid by the mile or kilometre rather than by the hour, so delays cost them money.

Also, the decline in the value of the pound against the euro since the Brexit vote has meant that being paid in pounds has been less attractive for EU nationals.


Too late, pictures in some UK newspapers show long queues of cars at petrol stations up and down the country. Many rely on their car either for work or to get to work and understandably they are not prepared to risk being without fuel. Of course, those newspapers that are making a headlines out of this shortage are only making matters worse. 

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