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UK fuel crisis: How does this affect SMEs?

Written by Latifa Yedroudj on Thursday, 30 September 2021. Posted in Politics, Analysis

A shortage of truck drivers has led to empty fuel pumps across the country, leading to long queues and panic buying

UK fuel crisis: How does this affect SMEs?

A shortage of truck drivers has led to empty fuel pumps across the country, leading to long queues and panic buying 

Across the UK, petrol stations have run dry following a shortage of truck drivers, straining supply chains to a breaking point. Fuel shortages have prompted widespread disruptions including long queues, fights at petrol station forecourts with key workers unable to get to work. How has Britain's fuel crisis affected SMEs? 

Petrol stations across the country have been unable to keep up with the demand for petrol with many people stock-piling, and some even had to close down temporarily. Oil companies say that pressures on fuel supply were being caused by “temporary spikes in customer demand” due to a shortage of truck drivers, leading to panic buying. Yesterday, the government announced plans to put an army on standby to ease fuel supply problems, after days of long queues and pump closures. Up to 150 military tanker drivers will prepare to deliver to forecourts that have run dry because of increased demands for fuel. There are 75 military drivers are on standby initially, and another 75 could be added if needed, according to reports. The UK is estimated to be short of more than 100,000 lorry drivers - causing problems for a range of industries, including food suppliers and supermarkets, in recent months. 

SMEs, in particular, have been hit hard by UK’s fuel crisis. With a drop in truck drivers and access to fuel, many businesses aren’t receiving their deliveries on time or can deliver to customers quickly. Companies may suffer if many of their employees are spending time queuing for petrol instead of working, while consumers are hit by a spike in fuel prices. However, some economists are reassuring UK companies that fuel shortages won’t cause much damage to the economy – as long as they are resolved quickly. 

Louise Burns, director of Tyne and Wear-based Nineteen Recruitment said: “As a supplier of key workers to social care settings, the unease is starting to set in. We have already had workers contact us today to say they don’t have the fuel to get them to work. This leaves care settings without the critical staff they need to effectively care for vulnerable children and adults. Panic buyers need to stop and consider how obstructive they are being to the key workers who take care of this country. It’s unnecessary, it’s selfish, and it’s putting so many key services at risk.” 

There have also been growing concerns for key workers, such as those in health and care, to receive priority access to fuel where it is available after some reported not being able to get to work due to supply issues. Some ambulance trusts have their own fuel pumps in depots and their supplies are expected to be prioritised, but essential workers can still suffer from the shortage. Dr Jane Townson, chief executive of the UK Homecare Association, warned that some people who depend on carers for tasks like taking pain medication could die if they are left without help.  

Leading fuel companies, including BP and Shell, have reassured the public that supplies remain unaffected, and are seeing signs that the situation is improving. In a joint statement, they said: “While there has always been plenty of fuel at our refineries and terminals, we are also now seeing signs that the situation at the pumps has begun to improve. Today we met with the Business Secretary and continue to work closely with the government to maintain regular deliveries of fuel to stations, supported by the welcome deployment of the Reserve Tanker Fleet today. “We remain confident that the situation will stabilise further in the coming days and encourage everyone to fill up as they normally would to help forecourts return to normal.”  

The transport secretary said there were "tentative signs" of stabilisation in petrol stations and queues would start to reflect this in the coming days. Grant Shapps said: "Once we all return to our normal buying habits... the quicker we get back to normality." 

About the Author

Latifa Yedroudj

Latifa Yedroudj

Latifa Yedroudj has joined the Elite team to fully immerse herself in the business side of journalism, a strong passion of hers cultivated from young having co-run her mother's start up business since she was 18. Her interests lie in a wide range of subjects, including start ups, business, travel, and anything entrepreneurial she can get her hands on. She has worked for some of the biggest names in journalism including The Guardian and The Mirror. Follow her on @latifayed on Twitter for her latest journo rants.

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