Panic-Buying Caused Dry Pumps in the UK

Our friends over in the UK might have woken up yesterday to find that the pump at their neighbourhood fuel station have dried up and they weren’t able to drive to work on an empty tank. Experts are saying that the issue was not really due to any immediate shortage, but a self-inflicted one…a little bit like when people hoarded toilet rolls in the early days of the pandemic, even though it never began with a real danger of insufficient supply.

The problem stemmed from the shortage of truck drivers, which was a worldwide concern even pre-pandemic. In the UK, it is partially attributed to Brexit. Logistics UK, one of the country’s haulier service providers, estimated that 72,000 truck drivers were lost between Q2 2019 and Q2 2020 as many returned to the EU, besides retiring early or seeking other employment when the pandemic hit. The truck driver shortage is exacerbated by the increase in demand for goods, driven particularly by e-commerce businesses, which boomed during lockdowns.

The whispers of there being an impending fuel shortage began last week. BP announced that it had to close some of its stations temporarily due to logistics issues. A few – not all – other oil companies were experiencing similar issues. But the moment the word “shortage” got out, the panic ball got rolling. Local papers reported it as a crisis and news outlets reported that Prime Minister Boris Johnson would consider sending the army to make sure that people got their petrol. The hashtag #petrolcrisis started trending.

Long queues of vehicles formed at petrol stations as drivers worry that fuel stock would run out. Over the weekend, stations in the cities began running low and some started rationing their supply and as the pump dried up, started turning customers away. In desperation, there are those who even siphoned fuel out of their lawnmowers.

According to industry insiders, though, there was actually no shortage of fuel at the refineries. But panic-buying has now put immense strain on the supply chain to restock so many pumps simultaneously.

The situation is expected to improve in the next few days because most drivers would already have a full tank but the rest are advised to only fill up what they need. How many of you are still wiping your backsides with toilet rolls that you stocked up on in 2019? So, leave your jerry cans at home.

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