There have been long queues at petrol stations across the Portsmouth area in recent days.
The rush to fill up with fuel is the latest spell of panic buying, following on from people stocking-piling toilet roll in March 2020.
Sianne Gordon-Wilson, Senior Lecturer in Marketing at the University of Portsmouth, has been researching consumer behaviour since 2007 and blames fear for the spike in demand.
She added that before this, increased demand was caused by positive influences – buying items on sale or for events – but now, mistrust is the main driving force behind shortages at the pumps.
Ms Gordon-Wilson explained: ‘The lack of trust is the main instigator here.
‘We’re told there is no scarcity of fuel and it’s a problem with the drivers, but if the drivers can’t get to work, then there’s no fuel, and the long queues only add to peoples fear.
‘It’s a vicious circle.’
Ms Gordon-Wilson added the factors influencing panic-buying are multi-faceted.
She said government decisions and speeches, online and offline media, and personal stories from friends and family have all stoked the flames and people doubt whether the supply-chain can cope.
‘This really started to kick off when the Prime Minister said there’s no need to panic buy,’ she said.
‘Him telling us that was the precursor for everything. Before then, people knew about the shortage of drivers but weren’t panic buying.
‘He tried to install trust in the situation but it had the contrary effect as people didn’t trust him.’
‘Twitter was going crazy, people were sharing their nervousness and fear online or in person, and the media are fuelling that by increased coverage.
‘It’s a double-whammy.’
The government are planning on giving European HGV drivers temporary visas and the army have been put on standby to deliver fuel if the situation worsens.
Ms Gordon-Wilson believes the only way to stop people panic buying fuel is to secure supply-chains, through using retired drivers to plug the skill-gap and train new employees, in order to rebuilt customer confidence.
Otherwise she said this will continue long-term.
She said: ‘I think this will go on for some time because there doesn’t seem to be solution.
‘The government have tried to say they’ll give temporary visas for drivers until Christmas Eve, but why would someone come here just until Christmas Eve?
‘To avoid panic-buying we just need to show that we’re managing peoples fear and managing mistrust. We need to insure that we have effective supply-chains that can actually deliver things to places.
‘It all boils down to the supply-chain, if we know we have effective stock and enough people to get it out there, then people will stop mistrusting or fearing the current system.’