Britain has deployed 100 members of its armed forces as HGV drivers in a bid to alleviate fuel shortages, which have bedevilled parts of the UK in recent weeks.

Despite the situation improving, the 100 drivers plus a further 100 tanker personnel started providing temporary support today (4 October, 2021), in a bid to ease the current HGV staffing shortages.

The Ministry of Defence and Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, say  demand for fuel has stabilised throughout the week, with more now delivered than sold, although some parts of the country still face challenges.

The military intervention comes alongside a range of measures the British government is taking to ease temporary supply chain pressures in food haulage industries, which it maintains have been triggered by the pandemic and the global economy rebounding around the world.

In a bid to manage short-term pressures, the government is introducing a bespoke scheme allowing up to 300 fuel tanker drivers to the UK on a temporary basis. In these circumstances, the Home Office is permitting a number of fuel haulage drivers to work in the UK immediately.

Hauliers will find licensed drivers to recruit and will submit applications to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, which will endorse applicants with the necessary licence and a contract to work as a fuel driver.

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This forms part of the temporary immigration arrangements announced last week to help provide short term relief for the food and fuel industries and ensure the stability of the UK supply chain in the run up to Christmas.

These time limited measures will facilitate recruitment of the following cohorts during the coming days and weeks:

  • 300 fuel drivers, who will be able to arrive immediately (subject to immigration checks, and endorsement from BEIS) and stay to work until the end of March, 2022
  • 4,700 food haulage drivers, who will arrive from late October and leave by 28 February, 2022
  • 5,500 poultry workers, who will arrive from late October and be able stay up to 31 December, 2021

“Across the weekend over 200 military personnel will have been mobilised as part of Operation Escalin,” said Secretary of State for Defence, Ben Wallace.

“While the situation is stabilising, our Armed Forces are there to fill in any critical vacancies and help keep the country on the move by supporting the industry to deliver fuel to forecourts.”

For his part, Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, added: “We are seeing continued signs the situation at the pumps is slowly improving. UK forecourt stock levels are trending up, deliveries of fuel to forecourts are above normal levels and fuel demand is stabilising.

“It’s important to stress there is no national shortage of fuel in the UK and people should continue to buy fuel as normal. The sooner we return to our normal buying habits, the sooner we can return to normal.

“However, we want to see employers make long term investments in the UK domestic workforce instead of relying on overseas labour to build a high-wage, high-skill economy. Visas will not be the long-term solution and reform within the industry is vital.

“In addition to short-term fixes, the government is also working with industry to find long term solutions to the shortage of HGV drivers and encourage more people to enter the logistics sector through improved testing and hiring, with better pay, working conditions and diversity.”