1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites
Cars queue up at a petrol and diesel filling station, Begelly, Pembrokeshire, Wales
Cars queue up at a petrol and diesel filling station in WalesImage: REBECCA NADEN/REUTERS
PoliticsUnited Kingdom

UK fuel crisis: Quarter of gas stations dry

September 30, 2021

British gas stations are seeing unprecedented demand, according to petrol retailers, with more than a quarter of fueling stations dry. However, the UK government has said the problems are easing.


A UK petrol retailer group on Thursday reported no relief in the pressure facing members, with a large proportion of gas stations without supplies because of a shortage of delivery drivers.

The news came as ministers denied that Brexit was an underlying factor and suggested that the crisis was under control.

What are retailers saying?

The country's Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), which represents 65% of Britain's 8,380 forecourts, said on Thursday that its members reported that 27% of pumps were dry.

Another 21% had just one fuel type in stock, and just over a half said they had enough of both. The PRA said staff had reported attacks by some motorists who were desperate to fill up.

"PRA members are reporting that, whilst they are continuing to take further deliveries of fuel, this is running out quicker than usual due to unprecedented demand," PRA Executive Director Gordon Balmer said.

"We are also continuing to hear of further instances of forecourt staff experiencing a high level of both verbal and physical abuse, which is completely unacceptable," he added.

It's been a chaotic week for motorists, with the army placed on standby to possibly drive fuel delivery trucks.  Media have reported fights between customers at gas station forecourts with lines of cars forming outside gas stations that still have supplies.

Britain plagued by fuel shortages

Troops ready to step in

The PRA said on Wednesday that training had been taking place "in the background" for military personnel to drive tankers.

The government said it was making preparations just in case, but that it had "no plans at the moment" to deploy troops.

Britain's Conservative government insisted that the country had "ample fuel stocks," instead saying the problems had been caused by consumer behavior.

"The only reason we don't have petrol on the forecourts is that people are buying petrol they don't need," Environment Secretary George Eustice said.

A number of large fuel firms, including BP, Shell, and Esso, said in a joint statement that they expected demand for gas to "return to its normal levels in the coming days."

"We would encourage people to buy fuel as they usually would," the companies said.

The crisis has prompted critics of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government to suggest that it is a clear consequence of Britain's leaving the European Union's single market and customs union.

Although tens of thousands of EU workers, including drivers, left the UK amid the confusion of Brexit, British government ministers have denied that this is a factor.

UK petrol stations run dry amid driver shortage

Bad news for farming, pharmacies

Fuel retail is not the only industry to have been hit by the shortage of drivers. The UK's Company Chemists' Association — which represents large pharmacy operators — said on Thursday that deliveries of medicines were being affected.

"The whole supply chain has been impacted from inbound wholesale depot supply down to outward depot deliveries to pharmacies," said a spokeswoman for the association.

Meanwhile, a shortage of butchers and other staff in the meat processing industry is said to have been made worse by Britain's post-Brexit immigration policy.

Lizzie Wilson, policy services officer at the National Pig Association (NPA), said the processors were operating at 25% reduced capacity.

"There's about 120,000 pigs sat on-farm currently that should have already been slaughtered, butchered, be within the food chain, and eaten by now," said Wilson.

Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers Union, said a cull of up to 150,000 pigs was "potentially a week, 10 days away."

rc/aw (dpa, Reuters, AP, AFP)

Skip next section Related topics

Related topics

Skip next section DW's Top Story

DW's Top Story

View taken from a Danish F-16 interceptor of the Nord Stream 2 gas leak just south of Dueodde, Denmark, on Tuesday, September 27, 2022.

Germany, Norway seek NATO role in undersea infrastructure

Skip next section More stories from DW
Go to homepage