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UK puts military on standby as panic buying hits fuel supplies By Reuters


© Reuters. Shell stations in London are crowded with vehicles waiting to get refilled, on September 27, 2021. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls


By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) – The British government says it is putting the military on standby as part of further measures to address a supply chain crisis which has led fuel pumps to run dry amid panic-buying by motorists.

After a severe shortage in truck drivers over the last few months that has caused serious problems for restaurants and retailers, the British government has decided to mobilize its army. This is because fuel stocks have been running low at filling stations due to this panic-buying.

Fears of fuel shortages were raised at the beginning of last week, leading to panic buying and long lines of vehicles waiting to be filled up. This has caused pumps to run dry in many cities in Britain.

In response to the labor shortage, the government has already stated plans to provide temporary visas to foreign truck drivers and to suspend competition laws.

According to the government, a small number of military tanker driver will be placed in a ready-to-go position for deployment if needed.

“While the fuel industry expects demand will return to its normal levels in the coming days, it’s right that we take this sensible, precautionary step,” business minister Kwasi Kwarteng said in a statement late on Monday.

The deployment of military personnel to the supply chain will allow for temporary relief from the pressures created by localised spikes in fuel demand.

According to the government’s statement, tanker truck drivers from army will be given specialised training in dealing with supply chain issues before they deploy.

According to the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), independent fuel retailers account for around 65% of the 8380 UK forecourts.

According to the fuel industry, there are no shortages. The problem is getting petrol and diesel from forecourts.

We expect demand to return to normal in the next few days as many vehicles now hold more fuel than they used. This will ease pressure on forecourt fuel stations. A joint statement by the fuel industry stated that they encourage all to continue buying fuel.

But hauliers, retailers, and gas stations say there are not quick solutions because the shortfall in truck drivers (estimated at 100,000) is so severe and because fuel transporting requires more training and licensing.

To allow those drivers who have expired their HGV (heavy-good vehicle) permits to drive fuel in the future, the government is also providing specific licences that allow them to do so.

Grant Shapps the Transport Minister said there was already a reduction in demand for fuel stations due to people responding to his message that it is not necessary to purchase unnecessary fuel.

“Even though the current network of tanker drivers is capable of delivering all the fuel we need – we have taken the additional step of asking the army to help plug the gap, whilst new HGV drivers come on stream thanks to all the other measures we’ve already taken,” he said.

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