British Army Drivers on Standby to Deliver Fuel

By Lily Zhou
Lily Zhou
Lily Zhou
Lily Zhou is a freelance writer mostly covering UK news for The Epoch Times.
September 28, 2021 Updated: September 28, 2021

A limited number of army tanker drivers will get ready to help deliver fuel to petrol stations if needed, the UK government announced on Monday amid mounting pressure.

Earlier on Monday, ministers said they had “no plan” at the time to draft army drivers after media outlets reported that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had been prepared to trigger “Operation Escalin”—reportedly an existing plan to draft military drivers to deliver fuel to petrol stations in case it was needed after Brexit.

The government said the military personnel will receive specialised training before they can be deployed.

In an interview prior to the government announcement, Brian Madderson, chairman of the Petrol Retailers Association, told BBC Radio 4’s “Today” programme on Monday that there’s a “whole process” involved in delivering fuel, with one of the difficulties being loading the tanks.

The government announcement came as one of the causes of the long queues at the petrol station—panic buying after a handful of forecourts ran dry due to heavy goods vehicle (HGV) driver shortages—is expected to calm down.

In a joint statement on Monday, industry leaders including BP, Shell, and Fuels Transport & Logistics said they expect the spiking demand will “return to its normal levels in the coming days” as cars are fully fueled.

“There is plenty of fuel at UK refineries and terminals, and as an industry we are working closely with the government to help ensure fuel is available to be delivered to stations across the country,” the statement reads.

Besides military backup, the government also said it will extend some ADR driver licences to ease the strain on the supply chain.

The ADR licence, which indicates a driver is qualified to carry dangerous goods under the ADR treaty, allows drivers to drive dangerous goods across borders. Drivers are required to take refresher training courses to renew their licences between 12 months to six weeks prior to the expiry date of their licences.

Under the temporary extension, licences expiring between Sept. 27 and 31 Dec. 31 will be extended to Jan. 31, 2022. This will reduce the number of drivers taken out of circulation to attend training courses this winter.

The government previously offered to issue three-month visas to 5,000 foreign HGV drivers—along with 5,500 poultry workers—to alleviated pressure during this Christmas season amid long-time shortages of HGV drivers caused by a mixture of factors including low pay, working conditions, training costs, tax rule changes, Brexit, and the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) pandemic.

Labour’s shadow defence secretary John Healey said drafting army drivers is an “admission of failure from a government that continues to rely on the Army to bail it out.”

Calling the move a “sticking plaster,” Healey said the government had moved too slowly “despite months of warnings from across the sector.”

Lily Zhou
Lily Zhou is a freelance writer mostly covering UK news for The Epoch Times.