HUGE queues are blocking access to petrol stations across the country amid fuel shortage fears.
Panic-buyers have been lining up from the early hours to fill their tanks – despite the government insisting motorists “carry on as normal”.
On Thursday BP said it had closed a “handful” of its petrol forecourts due to a lock of available fuel.
A “small number” of Tesco refilling stations have also been impacted, Esso owner ExxonMobil, which runs the sites, said.
But hoards of drivers have been making late-night and early morning trips to stock up for fear the country’s fuel supply could completely run out due to a lack of HGV delivery drivers.
One man visited the ASDA forecourt in Eastleigh, Hampshire, at 11pm last night only to be met by 20 other cars waiting to get in.
Another motorist was one of many waiting for his local garage in Hunstanton, Norfolk, to open at 6am.
Elsewhere, customers at a BP petrol station in Billericay, Essex, faced major delays this morning, and more than 30 vehicles lined up at the ASDA station at Brighton Marina, East Sussex.
One woman in Surrey said she even witnessed an “old guy” squeeze £2.65 worth of fuel into his tank “before it overflowed onto the floor”.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has tried to dissuade drivers from panic buying petrol, telling Sky News: “The advice would be to carry on as normal, and that is what BP is saying as well.”
But Brits have been ignoring him in their thousands, rushing straight to the pump.
A petrol station manager in Coventry said his store is already suffering from a loss of business because of a lack of fuel.
He told Good Morning Britain: “The big problem is driver shortages.
“We ran out of unleaded yesterday at 5.30 and already this morning we’ve seen panic-buying.
“We’ve had to switch of the diesel lane because people have gone crazy and there’s really no need. There’s plenty of fuel, just no drivers.”
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Ministers are said to be drawing up emergency plans to bring soldiers in to drive tankers to forecourts suffering supply issues.
The Times has been told contingency plans, called Operation Escalin, would go into action if the situation significantly deteriorated.
The supply issues came as Hoyer, one of the UK’s largest fuel logistics companies, revealed it was “struggling to meet deliveries”.
It cannot find enough tanker drivers to make fuel deliveries, typically 20 short of the 400 to 450 needed a day.
The Road Haulage Association says the UK lacks 100,000 HGV drivers in total.
Hanna Hofer, BP’s head of UK retail, told a government meeting last week the situation was “bad, very bad”.
The company said up to 100 of its forecourts were short of at least one grade of fuel. It has started rationing petrol deliveries.
Several have been forced to close entirely due to problems with supplies.
Petrol stations on motorways and major roads are being prioritised for fuel deliveries.
However, the AA today said that most of the UK’s forecourts are working as they should.
The advice would be to carry on as normal, and that is what BP is saying as well.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps
President Edmund King said: “There is no shortage of fuel and thousands of forecourts are operating normally with just a few suffering temporary supply chain problems.
“Fridays and the weekend always tend to be busier on forecourts as drivers either combine filling up with shopping runs, prepare for weekend trips or refuel for the start of the new working week.
“Drivers should not fill up outside their normal routines because, even if the occasional petrol station is temporarily closed, others just down the road will be open.
“It is now clear that there have been occasional delays over recent weeks that have been managed with hardly anyone noticing. This was a manageable problem.”
The crisis comes on top of families facing soaring energy bills and empty shelves at supermarkets.