BP is rationing deliveries of petrol and diesel to its UK network of 1,200 service stations, as the oil giant became the latest firm to warn that the national shortage of HGV drivers is disrupting its business.
The Guardian understands that “high tens” of forecourts, representing just under 10% of BP’s network, have no supplies of certain lines of fuel at any one time, while the company is prioritising deliveries to sites it considers important, such as motorway services.
It is understood that BP told the government in a meeting last week that the shortage of lorry drivers was affecting its supply chain and its ability to deliver fuel from its terminals to its service station network.
BP’s head of UK retail, Hanna Hofer, told ministers it was important the government understood the “urgency of the situation”, which she described as “bad, very bad”, in comments first reported by ITV News.
Hofer reportedly said BP had “two-thirds of normal forecourt stock levels required for smooth operations” and the level was “declining rapidly”.
A BP spokesperson apologised for any inconvenience caused, adding: “We are experiencing fuel supply issues at some of our retail sites in the UK and unfortunately have therefore seen a handful of sites temporarily close due to a lack of both unleaded and diesel grades.
“These have been caused by delays in the supply chain, which has been impacted by industry-wide driver shortages across the UK and we are working hard to address this issue.”
On any one day, between 400 and 450 HGV drivers deliver fuel for BP around its UK network, which stretches from Cornwall to Scotland and includes service stations in Northern Ireland.
BP does not employ the drivers directly. They are contracted from the haulage company Hoyer, and BP said it was working with the company to minimise disruption and ensure efficient deliveries to its customers.
The UK-wide shortfall in HGV drivers stands at 100,000, according to the industry body the Road Haulage Association, and an existing shortage has been exacerbated by Covid and Brexit.
The driver workforce is ageing fast, while many European lorry drivers working in the UK went back to their home countries during Covid and have not returned.
There is an estimated nine-week delay for drivers waiting to sit their HGV tests, following the closure of testing sites during the pandemic. The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, which is responsible for the tests, is not expected to clear the backlog until spring 2022, according to Logistics UK.
HGV drivers who deliver fuel and other dangerous goods including chemicals are required to have an additional ADR certificate, which comes from its French name – Accord relatif au transport international des marchandises Dangereuses par Route – a European agreement concerning the international carriage of dangerous goods by road.
Drivers require previous lorry driving experience before they can sit for their ADR certificate.