News & Updates

Fuelling a crisis….
Posted on Thursday, September 30, 2021

Fuelling a crisis….

Interesting times we live in, where the pace of information sharing can cause unprecedented responses from people in all walks of life.

Take the current crisis, whereby we have petrol stations running out of fuel on a daily basis. This is a situation entirely created by the media and then amplified via social media to the point of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy and it probably wouldn’t have happened before the advent of social media.

The fact is – there is no fuel shortage and never was. Nor was there a tanker driver shortage sufficient enough to have possibly caused this level of disruption.

Last week, one petrol company announced temporary closure of a handful of petrol stations due to a driver shortage. Best estimates indicate that we are talking about circa 25 outlets in the South of England.

Under normal conditions – this is barely a news story and the sheer volume of stations in that area would have easily taken up the slack.

However, the media had a field day with this snippet of information, possibly due to the last five years of reporting on speculative imminent disasters attributed to Brexit and then Covid-19. This issue was sold as a fuel shortage from the outset.

Social media went into overdrive – the same mindset that saw people fighting in supermarket aisles over a non-existent toilet paper shortage took over and we witnessed an unprecedented rush on petrol pumps across the UK.

In one weekend, domestic fuel demand at UK forecourts increased by 500 per cent. It is questionable whether any country could have handled that level of demand through normal supply chains.

On Monday, a leading light from one of the UK’s commercial fuel suppliers voiced his concerns on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, countering the repeated use of ‘fuel shortage’ as a term to describe what’s happening – including the interview he was partaking in.

He was quite clear – there is more than enough fuel arriving at, and being stored on these shores. He also made clear that the reduction in tanker driver numbers is infinitesimally small and could not possibly be a cause for such hideous scenes.

So it appears that we have a situation created by the media, distorted as to its real causes and then amplified by social media channels until hysteria-driven demand outstripped any rational requirement of supply.

The new spin off from this now meaty story, is to start apportioning blame where it doesn’t really belong. Prime amongst these allegations is that it’s a Brexit issue. It is not.

The EU currently has a deficit of approximately 400,000 lorry drivers, which also includes a share of tanker drivers. Germany for example is short by around 60,000 lorry drivers.

We have had almost two years of redundancies, retirements and job changes which have created a widespread shortage of drivers, combined with two years of no new trainees due to Covid restrictions. Of course there is a shortage of lorry drivers – but this didn’t cause the problem.

The media is incredibly important – but with that, comes responsibility. I fear that responsible reporting on this matter has been in shorter supply than the fuel…..