The body representing two-thirds of UK gas stations has warned the majority are running out or running out of panic purchases.
The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) also said the UK government’s proposed response to “really serious problems” would take weeks to make a big difference.
PRA President Brian Madderson said after reaching out to a variety of its members, he estimated “that between 50 and 90% of their plots are currently dry, and those that are not are partially dry. and run out soon ”.
He added that ministers “were reluctant to recognize” the true nature of the problems at the pump.
The clear message contrasted sharply with the optimistic tone of Transport Secretary Grant Shapps this morning, as he insisted there was “no shortage of fuel”.
With a nationwide shortage of truck drivers forcing some garages to shut down their pumps or ration fuel, the government will issue 5,000 short-term visas for truck drivers.
The move sparked a cabinet split, as most drivers due to come from the EU backtrack on Brexit-induced end to freedom of movement.
However, there is skepticism that with a shortage of drivers on the continent as well, few EU drivers will want to return to the UK for a program that ends on Christmas Eve.
A million letters are also being sent to UK heavy-duty licensed drivers encouraging them to return to the industry, which for months has warned of a shortage due to retirement, tax changes, wages and conditions, Brexit and the lack of new Drivers.
The UK is also issuing 5,500 temporary visas for poultry workers to meet additional demand as Christmas approaches.
Mr Shapps told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show that a shortage of truck drivers was “nothing new” and blamed the “irresponsible briefing” to the media by the Road Haulage Association (RHA) for have triggered panic buying.
He said: “There is a lot of fuel, it’s just panic buying that keeps it from being available sometimes immediately, as you want it to be.
“We see these queues that don’t have to be there.”
Rod McKenzie, director general of policy and public affairs at the RHA, said the allegation he had behind the briefing was “nonsense.”
Speaking later on Radio 4’s The World This Weekend, Mr. Madderson said the government’s new measures would not solve the immediate problems.
He said: “These measures introduced by the government this weekend are not ultra-short term. We might see some benefits later in the fall when the drivers show up and start working, but in the very short term this panic buy has caused some very serious problems.
“I spoke to many of our members this morning. They serve main roads, rural areas, urban roads, and between 50 and 90% of their plots are currently dry, and those that are not are partly dry and soon run out.
“We have seen another phenomenon is that the oil companies, perhaps rightly so, have given priority to the service areas of the highways and that people are now flocking to the highways wherever they have one nearby. and buy fuel on the highways.
“One of them mentioned to me that yesterday the demand increased by 500% compared to a week ago, which is quite extraordinary. ”
He agreed that the level of draining of the forecourt was “extraordinary” and added that it was “something the government obviously loath to recognize”.
He continued, “There is a lot of fuel in this country but it is not in the right place for the motorist.
“It’s still in the terminals and the refineries, and the amount they can now ship and deliver to the forecourt is limited by two things.
“One, the availability of equipment, the tankers themselves. These are specialized tankers capable of delivering a wide variety of fuels to the forecourt in these large trucks.
“There is a finite number of them, and there is obviously a finite number of trained conductors, and that’s the problem, that number of finished conductors has been reduced.”
James Withers, managing director of Scotland Food & Drink, said the visa changes were “more of an attempt to fix the headlines than to fix the real problem”.
He said: “We have been applying for emergency visas for weeks, to avoid the collapse of some food supply chains. Warnings about empty shelves have been issued since the summer.
“While the recognition of the pressures in the road transport and poultry sector is welcome, it is a problem along the entire food supply chain and I seriously doubt that 10,000 three-month visas will reduce it. This may help the situation for drivers a bit, but it will not solve the chronic understaffing in food production.
“What is frustrating is that this decision to offer additional visas has seemed more and more inevitable for weeks, if not months. Still, there was no action until more shortcomings appeared on supermarket shelves and cars started lining up for fuel. At this point, my instinct is that it’s too little, too late to make a real difference in the Christmas business.