| 29 May 2024, Wednesday |

British Army to start driving tankers as queues for fuel continue

Despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s claims that the situation was improving, British soldiers will begin driving tanks to replenish empty pumps, as vehicles queued again for petrol following days of shortages.

After oil companies warned they didn’t have enough tanker drivers to deliver fuel and diesel from refineries to filling stations, Britain has been gripped by a panic purchasing frenzy for almost a week, leaving pumps barren across major cities.

According to Business Minister Kwasi Kwarteng, 150 troops have been mobilized and will be driving tankers in a few days.

“The last few days have been challenging, with long lines. However, I believe the situation is stabilizing, and we are able to get gasoline into the forecourts. I believe we’ll be able to work our way out of this “Kwarteng explained.

Johnson has attempted to assuage fears by stating that supplies are back to normal and asking consumers not to panic buy.

A lack of about 100,000 drivers has wreaked havoc on supply systems, raising the possibility of empty stores and price hikes throughout the holiday season.

Asked if he could guarantee that there would not be problems in the run-up to the busy retail period, Kwarteng said: “I’m not guaranteeing anything. All I’m saying is that, I think the situation is stabilizing.”

By the early morning rush hour there were already long queues of cars in and around London and on the busy M25 orbital motorway circling the capital. Signswere up at some sites announcing no fuel was available.

The gridlock has sparked calls for doctors, nurses and other essential workers to be given priority access to fuel, a move Johnson has resisted.

Industry groups said the worst of the shortages seemed to be in London, the southeast and other English cities. Fights have broken out as drivers jostled.

The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), which represents independent retailers who account for about two-thirds of all the 8,380 UK filling stations, said on Tuesday 37% its members’ stations were out of fuel.

The shortages have added to an air of chaos in the world’s fifth-largest economy, leaving gaps on supermarket shelves. A spike in European wholesale natural gas prices has also tipped energy companies into bankruptcy.

Britain left the EU single market at the start of this year, preventing hauliers from recruiting drivers in the bloc. To tackle the shortage, the government has said it will issue temporary visas to 5,000 foreign drivers, a measure it had previously ruled out.

“What we want to do is make sure that we have all the preparations necessary to get through until Christmas and beyond, not just in supplying the petrol stations but all parts of our supply chain,” Johnson said.

Hauliers, petrol stations and retailers say there are no quick fixes as the shortfall of drivers is so acute, and transporting fuel demands training and licensing. European drivers may also be reluctant to take up the visa offer, which only lasts until Dec. 24.

  • Reuters