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Haulage Companies and the French Fuel Crisis

The latest French industrial action is hitting fuel supplies and causing major worries for haulage companies. The FTA is trying to help.

Many haulage companies will no doubt be sighing with resignation and saying “here we go again” when reading of the current round of industrial unrest sweeping through France, including targeting fuel supplies.

There isn’t much anyone can seemingly do about this culture in France, including the French government, but the FTA is trying to offer practical help to UK hauliers where it can.

The Issue

The government in Paris has introduced legislation to try and liberalise employment law in the country.

The unemployment rate in France at around 11% is still more than double of that in the UK or Germany and a terrifying 24% of young French people have no job and very little chance of finding one.

Many attribute that to the notorious inflexibility of France’s employment laws, which mean that it can be near impossible to make employees redundant even if a company is close to collapse. Consequently, many employers simply will not consider taking on new staff under any circumstances.

The French government’s corrective actions have been described as ‘mild bordering insufficient’ by some economists, but they have nevertheless generated a furious reaction from the traditionally militant French unions, who have launched a wave of strikes in protest. Some of these have targeted fuel refineries, with the result being uncertainty over fuel supplies across the country.

The Fuel Situation

At the time of writing, fuel shortages have been reported across France, though figures vary as to how severe the hit on pump supplies has actually been.

There is some evidence that panic buying has exacerbated the problem and, at times, somewhere between 25-35% of French fuel stations have run dry both of diesel and petrol.

The situation has serious effects on haulage companies. Following on from last year’s chaotic disruption at Calais, many are wondering when things will ever return to normal for vehicles going to France or in transit through the country.

To make matters worse, there are significant regional variations in terms of the severity of impact, with some areas being hit comparatively lightly while others have seen major wide-scale interruptions in fuel supplies.

The icing on the cake for many haulage companies is the comparative lack of information as to where stations still have plentiful supplies and where things are ‘dry’.

The FTA Steps In

While the FTA can’t solve the problem, they are trying to bridge the information gap as best as they can.

If you’re heading to France, the FTA is encouraging drivers to keep an eye on the English language “CONNEXIONS FRANCE” website where they can find some useful fuel availability information.

They are also encouraging hauliers to consider using the “Essence Pas Chère” mobile phone app, which shows a list of stations in a given area where supplies are still available.

The FTA is stressing the need for good planning. Setting off into France in the vague hope of finding fuel might be risky and it might be advisable to use less straight forward routes if they happen to be showing a good availability of fuel.

For haulage companies operating in and around France, these will be, somewhat challenging times. We can only hope that the country’s authorities take whatever steps are required to restore order in the fuel supply chain.

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Norman Dulwich is a Correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the leading online trade network for the road transport industry. Connecting professionals across the UK and Europe through their website, Haulage Exchange provides services for matching haulage companies with jobs in road transport and haulage work. Over 4,000 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.

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