Army troops in riot gear began delivering fuel to gas stations on Monday as drivers lined up, sometimes for hours, to refuel their tanks. Until recently, this would have been a scene all but the most pessimistic forecasters would have dismissed as too apocalyptic.
Yet the risks to the fuel supply were both predictable and predictable. Four years ago, the government identified an increased risk four years ago, but neglected to update its contingency plans.
Now, not having planned in advance, the ministers are leading a rearguard action, hoping that the presence of troops will calm people’s nerves and prevent panic buying.
Another interpretation is that nothing really screams “crisis” like seeing the army in the streets.
What exactly has the government done and will that be enough to solve the problems?
Around 200 soldiers have started to stock up on fuel in the hard-hit areas. Half of them are tanker drivers, the rest will take care of fuel deliveries.
They have just completed a short training course with the logistics company Hoyers. Oil tanker operators believe that new hires will be less efficient than experienced drivers who have left the profession.
Transport industry bosses are reluctant to be seen as critical of the military, but many remain skeptical that the plan will be enough.
The industry lacks oil tanker drivers. Some have retired, others have left the country and some are said to have been drawn to the prospect of big bonuses from supermarkets.
What about empty shelves in supermarkets?
As fuel shortages are expected to ease over the next few days, as drivers fill their tanks and demand subsides, problems in food supply chains are expected to last for much longer.
Food problems are caused by understaffing, not shoppers buying more than normal.
The transport industry estimates that 100,000 drivers are short, but the true extent of the problem is not known. This estimate is based on a 2016 survey which calculated that the country needed 50,000 additional drivers. Since then the number of drivers in the UK has fallen further by 50,000.
The lack of problems elsewhere in the world mocks denials by ministers that Brexit is a factor – though far from the only one – causing gasoline shortages at the pumps and food on some supermarket shelves .
The number of truck drivers fell by almost 10% between March 2020 and March 2021. There were 16,000 fewer EU nationals working as truck drivers in March 2021, a drop of more than a third in just 12 months. Some want to work in the UK but cannot due to immigration controls imposed since January 1.
Isn’t there a backlog of license applications
The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) has been criticized, especially by Brexit supporters, for a backlog of heavy truck license applications. However, the organization fired back, saying reports of the issue were misleading.
He admits that there are 54,000 licenses being processed, but says most of them are people asking for license renewals.
In the meantime, these applicants can continue to drive trucks unless a doctor tells them there is a reason they cannot drive. Therefore, it is not known what impact the acceleration of license renewal would have.
New license applications are processed within 5 days and the DVLA says it processes about 1,000 per day, on average. This is arguably a more important measure than the backlog of renewal applications.
What solutions has the government sought?
Transporters, retailers and the food industry have criticized the government’s proposed solutions to supply chain problems.
At the heart of these solutions, the offer of temporary visas to 4,700 truck drivers until the end of February (having initially announced that they would end on 24 December).
Even if the entire allowance is absorbed quickly, it will replace less than a quarter of the pilots lost in the past year and less than a tenth of the number deemed necessary. Many doubt that foreign workers will be willing to take on roles that involve relocating for a job that may only last a few weeks.
Boris Johnson insists companies need to train UK drivers. But that will do nothing to prevent the chaos of Christmas. The places in the heavy-duty training centers are full, with delays of around 11 weeks to reserve a slot.
A government letter urging existing heavy truck license holders who have left the profession to return has been mocked. Among the 1 million recipients were German licensees who had never driven a truck.
The message from the industry is clear: in the short term, only the influx of foreign workers can solve the problem; in the long run, better working conditions, higher wages and more investment – both public and private – are needed.
It’s not just truck drivers
Labor shortages are now spreading to most sectors of the economy, according to a study released this week by accounting firm BDO.
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This notice was published: 2021-10-04 18:06:01