British motorists desperate for fuel found service stations still closed and long lines at those with gasoline and diesel on Wednesday as the UK government prepared to deploy soldiers in an effort to end days of shortages.
The UK military has put 150 tanker drivers on standby to help deliver fuel to service stations, a government source told CNN Business, following a spate of panic buying by British motorists. “I think in the next couple of days people will see some soldiers driving the tanker fleet,” UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told reporters on Wednesday. “The last few days have been difficult,” he admitted. “We’ve seen large queues but I think the situation is stabilizing.” The fuel crisis kicked off last week after BP (BP) was forced to temporarily close some of its stations for the second time in as many months because of a shortage of tanker drivers made worse by the pandemic and Brexit. Brits rushed to buy gasoline, emptying thousands of service stations.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged the public on Tuesday to fill their tanks “in the normal way, when you really need it.” The Petrol Retailers Association, which represents independent fuel suppliers, said Wednesday that about 27% of the 5,450 service stations it monitors were without fuel, down from 37% on Tuesday and 66% earlier this week. Still, motorists continue to refill their cars at a rapid clip. One Shell (RDSA) station in central London that received 10,300 liters of diesel fuel on Tuesday exhausted that supply in under 14 hours. The same station went through 20,000 liters of unleaded petrol in roughly 24 hours, or twice the normal pace, according to station workers. There is enough fuel in the United Kingdom, but the shortage of tanker drivers is making it difficult to move gasoline to the places it’s needed. While millions of people have been inconvenienced, the shortages are also making it harder for essential workers such as nurses and taxi drivers to do their jobs.