Only 127 fuel drivers from overseas have applied for temporary visas aimed at tackling shortages, the prime minister has said.
The government is offering 300 foreign fuel drivers immediate visas to work in the UK from now until the end of March to help replenish fuel stocks.
Mr Johnson described it as a “fascinating illustration of the problem,” which he described as a “global” problem.
He did, however, mention a “specific problem in the United Kingdom.”
In order to avoid other supply chain issues, the government is offering a total of 4,700 temporary visas for foreign food lorry drivers, which will be valid from late October to the end of February. It is unknown how many people applied for this scheme.
The prime minister said on BBC Breakfast that working in road haulage “should be a great job,” but that there had been underinvestment in facilities and pay conditions.
He denied that the problem was related to Brexit, noting that the “supply chain problem is linked to recovery” and claiming that other parts of the world were also affected.
“Imagine the UK has been in deep freeze, and the pipes are unfreezing right now – the stresses and strains of the economy waking up,” he explained.
According to trade bodies, the UK currently has a shortage of approximately 90,000 HGV drivers, which has been caused by a number of factors, including the coronavirus pandemic, Brexit, and an ageing workforce.
In recent months, supply chains have begun to suffer as a result of the shortages, with some supermarkets struggling to stock specific products and petrol stations unable to stock enough fuel to meet demand.
Fuel tanker driver shortages caused panic buying at the pumps, though supplies have improved in some areas in recent days, according to Petrol Retailers Association data (PRA)
Approximately 200 servicemen and women from the Army and RAF have been drafted in to assist with fuel delivery from depots to forecourts.
According to the PRA, one in every five forecourts in London and the south-east of England remained dry on Monday.
Foreign drivers who successfully apply for visas under the government’s bespoke scheme will be able to work in the UK from now until the end of March.
The foreign drivers eligible for visas will not be limited to the EU, but the majority of the drivers are expected to be from Europe.
The government has stated that temporary visas are not a long-term solution and has urged businesses to invest in British workers.
Mr Johnson stated that the UK economy could not “revert to the failed model of relying on low-wage, low-skilled labour.”
“Now is the time to invest in people and skills.”