Military tanker drivers take to the roads to ease fuel crisis
Army tanker drivers are taking to the roads for the first time delivering supplies to besieged gas stations hit by the fuel crisis.
About 200 military personnel – half of whom are drivers – are deployed as part of Operation Escalin, although ministers have insisted the situation at the pumps is improving.
The troops – who have been on standby since the start of last week – will initially be concentrated in London and the South East, where the worst shortages remain.
They include members of 3rd Logistics Support Regiment who trained with the oil industry logistics company Hoyers in Thurrock in Essex.
The government has, however, deployed its reserve tanker fleet – driven by civilian drivers – since last week in an attempt to boost supplies.
A government spokesperson said: ‘We are working closely with industry to help increase fuel stocks and there are signs of improving average forecourt stocks across the UK, demand continuing to stabilize.
“Stocks in London and southern England have recovered at a slightly slower pace than in other parts of the UK, so we have started deploying military personnel to increase supply to those areas. .
Operation Escalin was initially crafted in anticipation of possible fuel shortages following Britain’s final withdrawal from the EU’s single market earlier this year.
The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) – representing independent retailers – welcomed the military deployment, although it suggested it would have only limited impact.
PRA Chairman Brian Madderson said that while the crisis was ‘virtually over’ in Scotland, the north and the Midlands, more than one in five gas stations in London and the south east were out of fuel.
Boris Johnson, attending the opening day of the Conservative Party’s conference in Manchester on Sunday, said he was confident the crisis was “easing” and said the military was being deployed as a “precaution”.
In addition to an estimated deficit of 100,000 truck drivers, companies, from meat producers to retail, have warned of empty shelves if shortages are not addressed.
Mr Johnson acknowledged that the country was going through a “period of adjustment” after Brexit, which cut the EU’s labor supply.
He insisted that he was not ready to resolve the situation by pulling “the great marked lever of uncontrolled immigration” to let in more foreign workers.
He said companies should make sure their employees are “decently paid” if they wish to hire more staff.