The situation at British petrol stations worsened dramatically over the weekend.

After panic buying by unsettled customers, there are now fuel supply bottlenecks nationwide.

Initially, at the end of last week, there were isolated reports about fuel stations that were not being replenished due to a lack of drivers.

BP spoke of 50 to 100 gas stations affected.

On Saturday and Sunday, a rush of customers paralyzed most of the country's gas stations.

Some reported a 500 percent higher demand than normal times.

Philip Plickert

Business correspondent based in London.

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According to a survey, the Petrol Retailers Association reported that 50 to 90 percent of all independent petrol stations are currently sitting on dry land. The situation is only slightly better on the motorways and at supermarkets, since the petrol stations there are primarily supplied by the petroleum companies. The automobile association AA, to which 14 million belong, had tried to calm down and spoke of "local problems". There is “a lot of gasoline available”, but panic buying has led to local bottlenecks.

Now the army should help.

In order to ease the situation, the government is preparing the deployment of hundreds of soldiers as tankers as a drastic step.

Internally, this emergency measure runs under the name "Operation Escalin".

However, it should take a few days before the soldiers have brought enough fuel to the pumps again.

In addition, the British government was forced to turn around at the weekend and relaxed immigration rules.

Boris Johnson's Secretary of Transportation Grant Shapps announced the issuance of several thousand additional temporary work visas for foreign drivers and other workers.

5000 truck drivers and 5500 workers for the poultry industry will be allowed into the country for three months.

There were mixed reactions to the visa announcement from business. Ruby McGregor-Smith, the President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCC), criticized that this was "just a thimble of water on a fire". The number is not enough. And it would take too long until more new domestic drivers were tested. The head of the business association CBI, Tony Danker, called the relaxed visa regulations "a huge relief". The Logistics UK association spoke of a big step forward in solving supply chain problems.

According to the Road Transport Association, there is a shortage of 90,000 to 100,000 truck drivers. The acute bottlenecks are partly a consequence of the pandemic. Hardly any new truck drivers were trained during the Corona crisis, and thousands have turned their backs on the transport industry. In part, however, the shortage of staff is also a consequence of Brexit and the emigration of foreign drivers or auxiliary workers. Stricter immigration rules with higher earnings hurdles now apply. The new immigration policy is actually supposed to steer immigration in such a way that only highly qualified people come into the country instead of many low-wage earners, as was previously the case. Now the bottlenecks are forcing the government to turn around.

The gas station crisis brings back bad memories of the nationwide gasoline crisis in 2000, which weighed heavily on Tony Blair's Labor government.

Back then, farmers and truck drivers blocked an oil terminal and refineries in protest against the rise in gasoline prices.

As a result, many gas stations were left out on dry land.