Government 'considering sending in army' to drive fuel lorries

Sainsbury's petrol station at Attleborough closes as they run out of fuel after customers panic buy.

Sainsbury's petrol station at Attleborough closes as they run out of fuel after customers panic buy - Credit: Denise Bradley

The Prime Minister is considering calling in soldiers to deliver fuel to petrol stations after days of panic buying.

Emergency measures were triggered on Sunday, with Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng choosing to suspend competition laws to allow fuel suppliers to target filling stations running low.

Multiple reports suggested that today Boris Johnson will decide whether to follow that by sending in the Army to drive oil tankers as "frenzied buying" added to fuel supply issues caused by a lack of HGV drivers.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has refused to rule out requesting military assistance after queues for the pumps continued across the country on the weekend.

Mr Shapps has already backed down over his reluctance to import foreign labour to solve the driver shortage by creating 5,000 three-month visas for extra hauliers to address delivery pressures.

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The Cabinet minister told the BBC the move would fix the driver shortfall, as he urged motorists to be "sensible" and only fill up when needed to help alleviate queues.

Long waits at filling stations began as motorists continued their panic buying which was sparked after concerns from BP were leaked to the media that the driver shortage could impact its ability to keep up with deliveries.

Over the weekend, many petrol stations closed across Norfolk, including the Dereham Morrisons, the Heacham BP,  the Attleborough Sainsburys, and the Drayton Applegreen.

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Today, September 27, queues are already starting to build at Norfolk's petrol stations, with heavy traffic around the Tesco at Blue Boar Lane.

The surge in demand led the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) to warn that as many as two-thirds of its membership of nearly 5,500 independent outlets were out of fuel on Sunday, with the rest "running out soon".

Worry over depleted stocks led the Business Secretary to act following a meeting with oil companies and retailers on Sunday.

Mr Kwarteng opted to temporarily exempt the industry from the Competition Act to allow the industry to share information so it can target areas where fuel supply is running low.

In a separate joint statement from the likes of Shell and ExxonMobile, the industry reiterated that the pressures on supply were being caused by "temporary spikes in customer demand, not a national shortage of fuel".

PRA chairman Brian Madderson - who described the purchasing rate as "frenzied" - told the BBC that oil companies were giving refill priority to motorway service stations.

Mr Shapps said visas were "only one element" of the Government's relief plan, as he admitted efforts to rebuild the domestic freight workforce could take years.

The package of measures involves ambitions to train 4,000 more lorry drivers, while the Army has been drafted in to provide extra HGV driving tests to reduce the backlog caused by the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns.

Nearly one million letters will also be landing on the doormats of people with HGV licences in the coming days enticing them to return to the job now that wages have risen.

The panic buying not only led to fuel shortages but to heavy traffic, queues of people waiting for petrol have blocked roads, with police even issuing a warning of emergency services and key workers being delayed by the traffic. 

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