‘NI psyche’ is helping Province resist fuel panic seen in GB: Haulage boss

A spokesman for the haulage industry has suggested that something in “the Northern Irish psyche” is allowing the Province to escape the kind of panic-buying of fuel witnessed on the UK mainland.

Wednesday, 29th September 2021, 9:59 am
Updated Wednesday, 29th September 2021, 10:09 am
People queue for fuel at a petrol station in Barton, Cambridgeshire yesterday

John Martin, the policy manager for NI with the Road Haulage Association, made the comments as parts of Great Britain continued to see chaotic scenes, with motorists queuing at forecourts and pumps running dry.

PM Boris Johnson yesterday said the situation is “stabilising” as he urged motorists to go about their business in the normal way.

Northern Ireland, however, has largely been unaffected by such problems.

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A shortage of lorry drivers to take fuel to forecourts has been widely cited as the root cause of the issue in GB – although Northern Ireland has also experienced a shortfall in heavy goods drivers too.

Asked why the Province appeared resistant to the kind of panic taking place across the Irish Sea, Mr Martin told the News Letter: “It’s maybe the Northern Irish psyche – we’re just slightly more laid back ... I don’t think there’s any other explanation.”

He added: “There is no shortage of fuel in GB – just there was a shortage of drivers. I think there was an issue in relation to a small number of filling stations.

“That was picked up by the press and the public just went mad in buying more fuel than was needed, exacerbating the whole situation.”

His information was that the problems seem to be concentrated in the southern half of England.

His message for NI motorists is simply this: “Just buy fuel as normal, and everybody will have plenty.”

One group of people benefiting from the current situation is existing lorry drivers.

This is because the industry-wide shortage has led to a roughly 12% upsurge in wages, he said – meaning some drivers could earn as much as £1,200 per week (depending on shift and destination).

Stephen Kelly, the chief executive of Manufacturing NI (which has about 550 members in the Province), was asked if any factories in NI are having trouble as a result of fuel shortages.

“None whatsoever,” Mr Kelly replied. “The only issues are on the GB side.”

The only “slight whimper” he had heard was one individual telling him that their GB suppliers were having trouble getting lorry drivers.

“There’s certainly not a fuel shortage, there’s just a logistical issue getting it to petrol stations in GB,” he said.

“There’s plenty of fuel; it’s just in the wrong places.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer yesterday sought to blame Brexit for the panic, saying: “What is the sole cause of this problem? The government has known for some time that there are consequences of us leaving the EU, one of which is lorry drivers.”

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