Motorists were warned on Thursday night of shortages at fuel forecourts as BP announced it was closing pumps and rationing petrol and diesel because of a lack of lorry drivers.
BP said it was cutting deliveries at 90 per cent of its petrol stations in an attempt to ration the fuel it has in reserve. ExxonMobil, the oil firm behind Esso, said that forecourts it operates at some Tesco supermarkets had also been affected.
The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) warned that drivers should keep a quarter of a tank of fuel in their car in case their usual station ran out.
The announcements were followed by calls from MPs and industry leaders for the Home Office to allow HGV drivers from abroad to be given fast-track visas to alleviate the shortage.
Downing Street stressed that the disruption was related to driver shortages rather than a lack of fuel supplies.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “There is no shortage of fuel in the UK and people should continue to buy fuel as normal. We obviously recognise the challenges faced by the industry and are taking steps to support them.”
It comes amid warnings that Britain is facing a “winter of discontent”. Supermarkets have also warned of shortages of food in the run-up to Christmas as they too struggle with the lorry driver shortages.
There are warnings that bills could rise for more than a million families as energy firms collapse owing to rising wholesale gas prices. The end of the Universal Credit uplift and rising inflation are also set to cause problems for families later this year.
Gordon Balmer, executive director of the PRA, suggested drivers should keep a quarter of a tank of fuel in their cars, and a former Tory minister warned that urgent action was needed to prevent lengthy queues outside petrol stations.
The Government is working closely with Ofgem, the industry regulator, as officials brace for further providers to go bust. Six companies have failed this month, impacting around 1.5 million customers.
Meanwhile, the Bank of England warned that price inflation will remain high until the middle of next year at least. Officials said inflation would rise above 4 per cent, double the Bank’s target rate, raising expectations that interest-rate increases will be needed to control the economy.