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    UK fuel crisis: Why are there shortages and what’s happening now?


    After days of panic buying, many drivers are struggling to re-fill their tanks amid long forecourt queues and pump closures. The army are now on stand-by to help ease the crisis, with 150 military tank drivers available to deliver fuel to pumps which have run dry.

    Many petrol stations have also imposed a £30 spend limit on the amount of fuel each driver can purchase in the hopes of balancing the cycle of supply and demand.

    The government response to the fuel crisis

    Boris Johnson and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps have urged drivers to stop panic buying and fill up ‘as normal’ in the hopes that the fuel supply will gradually get back on track.

    In a statement released by the Petrol Retailers Association, ‘there are early signs that the crisis at pumps is ending’, something which will continue as long as drivers only fill up when they need to.

    The fuel crisis has caused many difficulties for key workers such as ambulance drivers and hospital staff who are finding it hard to get fuel. According to the BBC, petrol and diesel prices have also shot up and are currently at their highest rates in 8 years.

    Boris Johnson’s comment on Twitter

    How did it all begin?

    Ironically, there wasn’t actually a shortage of fuel to begin with. The crisis was something of a snowball effect, triggered when BP announced a temporary closure of some petrol stations on the 24th September. Other retailers such as Esso reported the same issue, although giants such as Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons reported no similar problems to their fuel supply.

    The temporary closures to retailers such as BP and Esso were simply caused by a shortage of available lorry drivers to deliver fuel to their forecourts. This, in turn, is down to a combination of Brexit and Covid, as many lorry drivers have returned to their home countries in Europe, while Covid has resulted in a huge backlog of HGV driver tests.

    If things had continued as normal, we’d only have seen some temporary fuel shortages in a few certain areas. However, much like the chaotic toilet roll shortage we experienced during the first lockdown, a huge number of concerned drivers flocked to refill tanks over the weekend, leaving many petrol stations running on empty in what The Times described as a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy.’

    Is there a shortage of E5 fuel for my classic car?

    As many classic owners are already aware, the UK made the switch to a more environmentally-friendly E10 fuel in September this year. This replaced E5 fuel as the standard petrol grade, with E5 being moved to the ‘super’ grade label.

    Although the main fuel crisis is linked to the two main fuel grades – E10 petrol and diesel – petrol stations are reporting shortages with all types of fuel. However, we urge drivers not to fill up their tanks unless they plan on taking their classics out. As mentioned above, the fuel crisis is expected to subside and return to normal soon enough, as long as drivers continue to only fill up when necessary. In the meantime, it may be sensible to call around local fuel stations before heading out to get fuel for your classic, if you’re concerned you might not be able to get E5.

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