Fuel crisis examined – what went wrong?

The UK fuel crisis dominated headlines during the latter weeks of September, with huge ques, empty petrol stations, souring prices and panic buying. Now the issue is beginning to settle we look at what happened and some of the reasons why it was so difficult to get fuel during this period. We also have some data on our petrol station finder and how we saw a huge increase in usage during this period.

Driver shortages

Driver shortages were the root cause of the fuel shortage, without drivers to deliver petrol and diesel to petrol filling stations they began to run short. There are multiple reasons why there is a shortage of drivers, we look at each of these in more detail.


Brexit is one of the reasons the UK are facing a shortage of drivers, when the UK exited the European Union many workers originally from EU countries left Britain to pursue jobs in other countries still in the EU. Brexit made it harder for these EU nationals to remain working in the UK without going through official government channels and applying for a visa. Brexit however is only part of the problem that led to driver shortages.


The pandemic had an impact on every industry worldwide, restrictions were put in place that stopped the training of new drivers. Now these drivers are in high demand there is a backlog of applications that need to be processed and drivers that still need to be tested. These drivers could have been working already if the pandemic hadn’t slowed down the process.


Many drivers are thought to be older and at the age of retirement, Covid-19 encouraged many drivers to take retirement early and not to come back to work. This along with the lack of young people entering the industry, long hours, being away from home and historically poor pay has made the industry unattractive to the newly working population.

Panic buying

Panic buying played a huge part in the ques, lack of fuel and media frenzy that surrounded the fuel crisis. The media alerted the public to a potential issue with driver and fuel shortages. This resulted in many members of the public rushing out to fill their vehicle and spare containers with fuel. This is in human nature, a fear of a resource shortage and the consequences of this encourages people to go to extraordinary measures to obtain the product or service that is in short supply.  The continued media attention encouraged more panic buying which resulted in further shortage of fuel.

Petrol station finder

During this period, we saw a huge increase in the number of visitors and users of the petrol station finder. At the height of the pandemic the petrol station finder had over 45,000 views in 1 day, that’s over 45x the usual number of pageviews we receive per day on the tool. The petrol station finder helped both fuelGenie customers and the public to find their nearest Tesco, Morrisons, and Sainsbury’s forecourts during this time of crisis. This was very useful for motorists looking for the best value fuel during the fuel crisis, prices increased, and fuel became a very expensive commodity. Try the petrol station finder to locate your nearest petrol station that accepts your fuelGenie card.

The solution

The government has implemented measures to try and ease the shortage of drivers within the industry. These measures include:

  • Temporary visas for EU nationals
  • Pay rises to encourage more people to become drivers
  • Letters and incentives to encourage licence holders back into the industry
  • Additional training for up to 4,000 people to be trained as HGV drivers

fuelGenie will continue to help drivers find low-cost supermarket fuel through the use of the petrol station finder and the new fuelGenie app. The fuelGenie app is the easy way to find your nearest fuelGenie petrol station on the go, you can also manage your account, see available spend, apply for credit limit increases and more. Find out more about the fuelGenie fuel prices app.


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