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(C) Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A driver wearing a face mask walks past lorries at Ashford International Truck Stop, as EU countries impose a travel ban from the UK following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Ashford, Britain December 22, 2020. REUTERS/Simon Da

By Sarah Young and Victor Jack

LONDON (Reuters) -Britain on Friday vowed to do whatever it takes to resolve a trucker shortage that has forced oil giant BP (NYSE:BP) to close some petrol stations and strained supermarket supply chains to breaking point.

BP temporarily closed some of its 1,200 UK petrol stations due to a lack of both unleaded and diesel grades, which it blamed on driver shortages. ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM)’s Esso said a small number of its 200 Tesco (OTC:TSCDY) Alliance retail sites had also been impacted.

“We’ll move heaven and earth to do whatever we can to make sure that shortages are alleviated with HGV drivers,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Sky News.

Suppliers have warned that there could be more shortages of petrol because of a lack of drivers to transport fuel from refineries to retail outlets, but Shapps said that government moves to double the number of lorry driver tests would soon resolve the crisis.

“Many more tests are being made available now so we should see it smooth out fairly quickly,” he said.

The haulage industry says it currently needs around 90,000 more drivers after some 25,000 returned to Europe before Brexit and the pandemic halted the qualification process for new workers in Britain.

Shapps said COVID-19 exacerbated the problem and that Britain was unable to test 40,000 drivers during lockdowns.

Supermarkets and farmers have called on Britain to ease shortages of labour in key areas – particularly of truckers, processing and picking – which have strained the food supply chain.

Britain says: we’ll do whatever it takes to resolve trucker shortage

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Britain says: we’ll do whatever it takes to resolve trucker shortage