The fuel shortages across the UK appear to have hit London the hardest, with more pumps running dry in the capital as motorists flocked to fill up their tanks.
The surge in demand from consumers reached such levels that motorists were putting in less than £2 worth of petrol. Experts have said the situation should ease in the next two days.
According to AA president Edmund King, the shortages have hit London and the South East the hardest, compared to the situation in other parts of the UK.
Boris Johnson said this week that the petrol crisis was “stabilising”, while King also noted a “significant drop” in ‘out of fuel’ breakdowns, suggesting that “the pressure at the pumps is easing”.
But the major issues of panic-buying appear to have been mostly in and around the capital.
He said: “From speaking to patrols and employees, many of the garages we observed with queues yesterday were generally functioning well today and still had fuel.
“In general terms London and the South East have been hit hardest and very few problems were seen in Scotland or Northern Ireland.”
Edmund said The AA had received reports of drivers topping up with as little as £1.72 of petrol and urged drivers to “stick to their normal refuelling patterns”.
Fights breaking out on forecourts have also been reported, with footage appearing on social media showing a man wielding a knife as tempers boiled over during long waits to fill up.
Watch: Early morning queues for petrol station in south London
But Edmund said “the worst is over”, adding: “There is no problem with supplies at source, and pressure at the pumps will ease further over the next two days.”
The government has insisted there is no shortage of fuel – and that the crisis was being caused by drivers filling up when they didn’t need to.
Environment secretary George Eustice said this week: “There isn’t a shortage (of fuel).
“The cause of these current problems is that panic-buying episode and the most important thing is for people to start buying petrol as they normally would…
“The only reason we don’t have petrol on the forecourts is that people are buying petrol when they don’t need to.”
A Tory council leader also accused the BBC and other media outlets of "hyping" stories about shortages, which led to more panic-buying.
A decision to put 150 military drivers on standby to help deliver fuel to forecourts has been formally approved, meaning they can begin training in case they are required.
A further 150 drivers’ mates are also ready to help out as part of the military effort.
“They’re still on standby but can now start training now it’s approved,” a government source said.
They will be held in a “state of readiness” and could deployed “in the coming days” if needed, sources added.
Deputy prime minister Dominic Raab has also suggested offenders who have been given community sentences could be used to address the wider issue of a lack of HGV drivers.
He told The Spectator: “We’ve been getting prisoners and offenders to do volunteering and unpaid work.
“Why not if there are shortages encourage them to do paid work where there’s a benefit for the economy, benefit for society?
“If you give people skin in the game, give them something to lose, if you give them some hope, they’re much less likely to reoffend.”
Treasury minister Simon Clarke said that the number of petrol stations without fuel stood at 27% as of on Wednesday – down from the weekend figure of 60%.
The crisis has been put down to several factors, including labour shortages, new immigration rules affecting HGV drivers and the lingering effects of the pandemic.
There is estimated to be a shortfall of around 100,000 lorry drivers, while figures from the Department for Transport showed there was a backlog of more than 56,000 applications for vocational driving licences, including HGV and bus, permits waiting to be processed.
Ministers have blamed the pandemic which led to the cancellation last year of tens of thousands of tests.
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