‘Brexit has little to do with it!’ Reasons for petrol crisis laid bare by lorry driver

UK drivers exasperated by panic buying of petrol

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Brian Challis, 72, who was a lorry driver for 47 years, insisted that the real reason for the driver shortage was the coronavirus pandemic and the holiday period. He added that the issue had been exacerbated by panic buying, whipped up by a media frenzy. When asked whether Brexit was to blame, he said “No, Brexit has very little to do with it. Very little. I think it’s the COVID-19 that’s done most of it and the panic due to the newspapers, the media.”

He added: “That’s where the problem came in. If the Government had just kept quiet and just carried on with the jobs, there would be none of this.”

He explained that only a small number of HGV drivers have an ADR certificate, which is required to drive vehicles with tanks of chemicals or petrol.

He said: “You’ve got hundreds of thousands of lorry drivers who have HGV licenses but only a few have the ADR for chemicals and patrol.

“So the petrol people will only employ a certain [number] of people. But they should employ enough drivers, more drivers.”

Mr Challis claimed that the shortage of these drivers is because many have stayed home and self-isolated.

He added that some drivers from oversees also decided to go back to their home countries, due to the pandemic.

He said: “COVID-19 came, so everyone said ‘oh no, I’m not staying here with COVID-19, I’m going home’ and a lot of them went home.

“But when they went home they found they could get great jobs with just as much money as they could here, so they stayed there.”

However, he insisted that the crisis was not as bad as has been suggested.

He said: “BP couldn’t cope with filling up a couple of garages so they closed them down for lack of fuel.

“The newspapers got hold of that and blew it out of proportion.

“There is no shortage of petrol or diesel, they’ve got 50,000 gallon tanks at the depots just waiting for someone to collect them.

“BP are short of drivers because of the holiday period, COVID-19 and other things, and some retiring because they got old.”

He also claimed that changes in tax law have “sealed it”, as a lot of drivers “went home” when the tax rate changed.

The long-time HGV driver also blasted the “absolutely appalling” conditions which those in his line of work have to endure.

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Mr Challis explained that drivers legally must take breaks in their long days, but that parking at service stations can cost between £20 and £35 and, often, employers do not cover this.

What’s more, they often have to pay to use service station showers and that these showers can be dirty and “very very cold”.

He said: “You go and have a wash or a shower, if the showers are working, if they are in decent enough conditions for you to stand in that place, because sometimes there’s just green mould and they are just disgusting, I wouldn’t even put my dog in there.

He added: “You have a free shower or they might charge you £2 for the privilege to go stand there in a dirty sink with a hose pipe, that’s all it is.”

What’s more, he argued that the food is not always nice, and that HGV drivers can sometimes spend half an hour of a 45 minute break queuing, because there is no priority for them.

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Lack of security during these breaks are also an issue.

Mr Challis said that, to avoid being charged, lorry drivers sometimes park in a layby instead of a car park, but that can leave them more exposed.

He said: “Now the problem you’ve got now is, is that layby going to be safe?

“Are you going to wake up in the morning, turn your engine on and find the fuel tank has been emptied because someone has just come and siphoned out your fuel?”

He added that sometimes trucks get slashed and the contents stolen, and that drivers can do little to stop them.

Mr Challis said: “If you get out and tackle these people, you’re going to end up hurt! I’m not a security man.”

He said drivers are treated like “5th class citizens” and that young people are choosing not to pursue the profession due to the conditions.

He told Express.co.uk that this situation “has been coming for the last 20 years” and furiously insisted it “should have been sorted years ago”.

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