As HGV drivers shortage escalates, Britain keeps military on 'standby' to deploy trucks & drivers

A BP petrol station that has run out of fuel is seen in south London, Britain, September 27, 2021 © Reuters / Toby Melville

The British army may soon deploy its fuel tankers to plug a significant logistics vacuum caused by a shortage of lorries and drivers. Some petrol stations run dry in some locations, and deliveries are almost halted.

Army tanker drivers would undergo specialized training to "enable them to seamlessly work with industry to address supply chain pressures," according to UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace. He announced the plans on Monday night.

"Our armed forces men and women are ready to relieve transportation pressures where they are felt the most. That is why, as reported by Sky News, I have authorized their greater preparedness so that they are ready to respond if necessary.

The announcement comes after several days of panic buying across the UK, fueled by fears of a possible fuel shortage, which resulted in some stations running out of gasoline due to the unexpected demand. On the other hand, officials in the United Kingdom say that the problem is not a lack of fuel but rather a lack of delivery trucks and drivers.

Before Wallace's announcement, Environment Secretary George Eustice disputed suggestions of army involvement, saying there were "no plans at the moment" to do so. Still, he did add military soldiers would stay on "standby."

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has requested that the army provide Military Aid to Civil Authorities (MACA) to safeguard drivers if necessary. He said that, while "the UK continues to have strong fuel supplies," the request was a "sensible, precautionary step," and that demand will return to normal "in the coming days." Despite this, he stated that the government is "aware of supply chain issues at fuel station forecourts and is taking steps to alleviate these as a matter of priority."

Eustice agreed with Kwarteng that the panic-buying frenzy, which lasted through the weekend, was now "calming down," and customers were returning to "normal buying habits."

ADR driver's licenses – which are provided to truck drivers and others who transport potentially dangerous commodities, such as petrol – have also been extended by Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps in the hopes of keeping more tankers on the road. Those whose licenses were set to expire between September 27 and December 31 now have until January 31 to renew them.

"Extending ADR licenses will help to relieve any pressures on fuel drivers by eliminating the need for refresher training courses and ensuring that they can continue to provide their vital service on our roads," Shapps added.

Fears of fuel shortages prompted the British Medical Association (BMA) to call for emergency measures that would allow ambulances to get priority at the gas station, stating that "there is a real risk that [National Health Service] staff will be unable to do their jobs" if gas stations ran out.

"Emergency and essential workers rely on fuel both to get to work and to do their jobs – whether it's getting to hospitals, practices, and other healthcare settings, or for ambulances to reach people in need of care and GPs to visit very ill patients at home," according to BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul.

Publish : 2021-09-28 11:45:00

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