Wednesday, October 27, 2021

UK expands truck driver visa program as fuel crisis continues

LONDON (WNN) – The British government has extended an emergency visa program for truck drivers as fuel shortages show some signs of ending on Saturday, especially in London and the south-east of England.

In an announcement late Friday, the Conservative government said temporary visas for about 5,000 foreign truck drivers, which are expected to last until the end of February, instead of ending on Christmas Eve as originally planned.

The short duration of the program announced last week drew widespread criticism for not being attractive enough to lure foreign drivers.

The government said 300 fuel drivers would be able to come to the UK from overseas “immediately” and would stay until March. Another 4,700 visas targeted for foreign food truck drivers will run from the end of October through the end of February.

In another move intended to ease pressure on the pumps, around 200 military personnel, including 100 drivers, will be deployed from Monday to help ease fuel supply shortages that have led to empty pumps and long lines at filling stations. Are engaged.

The government says that the situation was already improving.

“UK forecourt stock levels are rising, fuel deliveries to forecourt are above normal levels, and fuel demand is stabilizing,” Business Secretary Quasi Quarteng said. “It is important to emphasize that there is no national fuel shortage in the UK, and that people should continue to buy fuel as normal.”

However, the Petrol Retailers Association, which represents independent filling stations, warned that fuel supplies remained a problem and could be depleted in places.

“It was worse, if anything, in London and the southeast, and possibly parts of eastern England,” group chairman Brian Maderson told BBC radio.

Maderson welcomed the deployment of military drivers next week but warned it would have limited impact.

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“It’s not going to be the major panacea,” he said. “It’s a huge help, but in terms of volume, they won’t be able to carry that much.”

Opposition parties are urging Prime Minister Boris Johnson to recall parliament next week to address a widespread labor shortage and disruption in supply chains.

In recent months, several companies have reported shortages, including fast-food chains KFC, McDonald’s and Nando’s. Supermarket shelves are also looking barren, and fears have risen that they won’t be stocked as usual for Christmas.

In an effort to address the Christmas turkey shortage, the government also announced that from the end of October a total of 5,500 foreign poultry workers would be allowed to stay in the UK and stay until the end of the year.

Johnson’s pro-Brexit government is keen to downplay that the driver shortage is a result of Britain’s departure from the European Union.

However, when the country left the EU economic orbit earlier this year, one of the bloc’s main principles ceased to apply – the freedom for people to move within the EU to find work. With Brexit, several tens of thousands of drivers left the UK to go back to their homes in the EU, and put pressure on an industry already facing protracted staffing issues.

The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the problem, with thousands of EU drivers returning to their home countries. The UK’s series of lockdowns led to difficulties in training and testing new domestic drivers to replace those who were left out.

In addition, the pandemic accelerated the number of British drivers retiring. Relatively low wages, changes in the way truck drivers’ income is taxed, and a lack of amenities – for example, toilets and showers – have also reduced the job’s appeal for younger workers.

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