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BP petrol crisis: Forecourts forced to close due to ongoing shortage of HGV drivers

Unite poll shows support for increase in lorry drivers’ pay

Parliamentary reporter @TrinderMatt

UP to 100 BP forecourts have been forced to close nationwide due to the ongoing shortage of HGV drivers, it has emerged.  

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps did not deny reports today that the army could be drafted in to drive fuel tankers, after some Esso-owned Tesco Alliance stations also had to cease trading.

When questioned on BBC Breakfast, Mr Shapps said: “If it can actually help, we will bring them in.”

He urged people not to panic buy, claiming refineries had “plenty of petrol.”

The Tories’ handling of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as years of low pay and deteriorating working conditions, has left Britain short of 100,000 lorry drivers.

Unite, which represents workers in the sector, released survey results today which showed most people back paying lorry drivers more as a way out of the crisis.

Half of the 2,000 adults polled blamed the government for food shortages, with only 14 per cent pointing the finger at supermarkets and a similar number accusing HGV drivers of being at fault.

A majority of both Labour and Conservative voters are in favour of boosting wages, the research revealed, albeit with more support in the former camp. 

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said the results prove people “recognise that providing decent jobs, on decent pay, for lorry drivers, would attract more workers to the industry.

“That would be a starter in beginning to deal with the current crisis. Years of suppressing drivers’ pay and bypassing European regulations have led us to where we are now.”

The union also slammed ministers for relaxing rules around maximum working hours for drivers as a way to make fewer staff work longer.

Unite’s national officer Adrian Jones said: “There’s no shortage of trained drivers in the country but there is a shortage of drivers who want to work miserable hours for stingy pay. 

“The industry has to face up to the true causes of this crisis — its decades-long race to the bottom.”

Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said ministers had “failed to heed the warnings for a decade” about an oncoming crisis in the sector. 

“If they fail to take action, the responsibility for every empty shelf, every vital medicine not delivered and every supplier not able to meet demand lies at the Conservatives’ door,” he added.

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