2021-10-04 22:34:42 Military Personnel in U.K. Begin Driving Fuel Trucks to Stem Shortage

Military Personnel in U.K. Begin Driving Fuel Trucks to Stem Shortage

Military personnel in the United Kingdom began driving fuel tankers on Monday, as the government increased efforts to address a truck driver shortage that has closed some gas stations, caused panic buying and long lines at others, and threatened wider disruption in the run-up to Christmas.

Around 200 soldiers were deployed in the south of England, where the problems are now centered, with roughly half of them driving civilian vehicles and the others providing logistical support.

In an interview with LBC Radio, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak stated that, while fuel supplies were improving, the military was being deployed as a backup.

“As a precaution, we have added extra drivers,” Mr. Sunak explained, adding, “we are doing everything we can.”

Mr. Sunak later stated at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, “Right now, we are facing challenges to supply chains not just here, but all over the world, and we are determined to tackle them head on.”

Britain, like other countries, has a truck driver shortage, but before it left the European Union’s economic zone, employers could freely recruit workers from across Europe. Since January, most foreign employees have needed visas, which has limited recruitment.

The British military has been asked to make personnel available for 31 days as part of Operation Escalin, though that period could be extended if necessary.

Soldiers in uniform were spotted at an oil depot in Hemel Hempstead, north of London, on Monday, according to British news outlets.

Mr. Sunak acknowledged that shortages could persist into the Christmas season, but told the BBC that there was no quick fix for a problem that had also affected other countries.

He stated that the government was providing short-term visas to some foreign truckers, adding, “Of course, we are doing all of those things, but we can’t wave a magic wand and make global supply chain challenges disappear overnight.”

That was a more reassuring tone than Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who said on Sunday that the crisis would ultimately benefit workers by forcing employers to offer better wages and working conditions to British workers. Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, later doubled down on that message, blaming business for the shortages, saying, “I don’t believe the prime minister is responsible for what’s in the shops.”

On Sunday, Mr. Johnson appeared to dismiss claims that, due to another labor shortage, this time of meatpacking workers, thousands of pigs may have to be slaughtered on farms and their carcasses dumped rather than used for food.

The National Pig Association’s chief executive, Zoe Davies, told Times Radio that she was “very disgusted by the prime minister’s attitude,” adding that if animals were culled on farms, they could not enter the food chain. “The slaughter plants can’t take them because they don’t have enough staff,” she explained.

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Military Personnel in U.K. Begin Driving Fuel Trucks to Stem Shortage