THE SPIRALLING cost of energy, combined with a lorry driver shortage and now panic buying, has resulted in 5,500 petrol stations across the country running dry.
Truckers say that they have been driven out of the profession because of bad pay, long hours, unsafe conditions and lack of facilities, like toilets, rest bays and places to get a hot meal.
The Petrol Retailers Association warned that as many as two-thirds of its membership of nearly 5,500 independent outlets are out of fuel, with the rest of them ‘partly dry and running out soon’. The UK has a total of more than 8,000 filling stations.
The Tory government has had to suspend a competition law to allow oil firms to target fuel deliveries at petrol stations.
Victoria Tuck, UK Truck Drivers Association said: ‘We have got drivers in this country, the problem that we have got is that people are leaving the industry because of the pay and conditions and the situation that they find themselves in on a weekly basis.
‘You have got people who have been underpaid for a long, long time, people who are leaving home on a Sunday and Monday and they have no idea where even the next time they are going to find a toilet, a decent meal, somewhere safe to park.
‘This is a Europe-wide problem and it is a problem that has developed over a long, long time, it is not something that can be solved in five minutes, this has been building up over the last ten to fifteen years. We are not going to be able to solve it before Christmas.
‘We need to be able to work the industry to be able to attract young people into it and that means that they need to be provided a work-life balance, they need to be able to know that where they are parking up is safe, we need to as a public appreciate just how important the truck and the driver is to our economy and our everyday lives. Over 95% of everything we use, comes off the back of a lorry.’
The Tory government’s plans to relax immigration rules for lorry drivers and poultry processors are only ‘propping up a broken and exploitative system,’ the Unite union said.
It said depriving other countries of their workers will allow the low pay and unpleasant and stressful working conditions that are the root cause of the driver and chicken factory shortages to continue.
Unite national officer for road transport, Adrian Jones, said: ‘By plundering workers from other nations, the government is propping up a broken and exploitative system.
‘Kicking these issues into the long grass instead of taking decisive steps now will only create worse disruption down the line.’
Unite national officer for food, drink and agriculture, Bev Clarkson, said: ‘The poverty pay and insecure contracts on offer in poultry processing do not compensate for the physically draining and unpleasant work.
‘That needs to change. What must not happen is the reestablishment of an employment system that relies on exploited migrant labour and pits workers against each other.’