Smart Transport

Fuel crisis: Army put on standby and HGV driving licences extended

Woman refuelling car

Military tanker drivers have been put on standby to stabilise the fuel supply chain if necessary, the Government has announced.

Last week saw some petrol station closures as deliveries were unable to be made due to the HGV driver shortage.

Military drivers will receive specialised training before being deployed, the Government said.

The Military Aid to the Civil Authorities (MACA) request was issued by business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng on Monday (September 27).

He said: “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.

“The UK continues to have strong supplies of fuel; however, we are aware of supply chain issues at fuel station forecourts and are taking steps to ease these as a matter of priority.

“If required, the deployment of military personnel will provide the supply chain with additional capacity as a temporary measure to help ease pressures caused by spikes in localised demand for fuel.”

ADR driver licence extension

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has also authorised an extension to ADR driver licences, which allow drivers to transport goods, such as fuel.

This will apply to licences expiring between September 27 and December 31 and extend their validity until January 31, 2022.

The Government said the move will permit affected drivers to maximise their available capacity, instead of being taken out of circulation for refresher training purposes.

Shapps said: “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.

“Extending ADR licences will further help ease any pressures on fuel drivers by removing the need for refresher training courses and ensuring they can keep providing their vital service on our roads.”

Measures to tackle the driver shortage

The Government recently announced a raft of measures to plug the shortfall in HGV drivers, estimated by the Road Haulage Association (RHA) to be around 100,000.

The DFT said that 5,000 HGV drivers will be able to come to the UK for three months in the run-up to Christmas, providing short-term relief for the haulage industry.

Recruitment for additional short-term HGV drivers will begin in October and these visas will be valid until December 24.

The Department for Education (DfE) is also investing up to £10 million to create new skills bootcamps to train up to 3,000 more people to become HGV drivers.

The short, intensive courses will train drivers to be road ready and gain a category C or category C&E licence.

An additional 1,000 people are expected to be trained through courses accessed locally and funded by the Government’s adult education budget.

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) also announced the deployment of Defence Driving Examiners (DDEs) to increase the country’s testing capacity over the next 12 weeks.

It follows changes to the HGV driving test, which aim to make it easier for the industry to recruit new drivers.

The DfT has also issued a letter to HGV licence holders to encourage those who have left the profession to return to the industry.

The announcement follows a joint statement issued by the fuel industry confirming that fuel supplies at UK refineries and terminals remain high as well as encouraging the public to continue to purchase fuel as normal.

Signatories included BP, Shell, Esso Petroleum/ExxonMobil, Wincanton, Certas Energy UK, Hoyer Petrolog UK, Greenergy, Fuels Transport and Logistics; Downstream Fuel; and Suckling Transport.

Over the weekend the Government enacted the Downstream Oil Protocol to relax competition rules to make it easier for industry to share information.

This, it says, will help the sector to prioritise the delivery of fuel to the parts of the country and strategic locations that are most in need.

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