Soldiers to drive tankers as UK is gripped by petrol panic-buying

British soldiers will soon begin driving tankers to replenish empty pumps as motorists queued again for fuel after days of shortages.

rime minister Boris Johnson has insisted the situation is improving, but the UK has been gripped by a rush of panic-buying for nearly a week that has left pumps dry across major cities.

It comes after oil companies warned they did not have enough tanker drivers to move petrol and diesel from refineries to filling stations.

UK business minister Kwasi Kwarteng said 150 soldiers had been mobilised and would be driving tankers within a few days.

“The last few days have been difficult, we’ve seen large queues, but I think the situation is stabilising – we’re getting petrol into the forecourts. I think we’re going to see our way through this,” Mr Kwarteng said.

He said the government’s reserve tanker fleet, which numbers 80 vehicles, according to a 2019 assessment, would begin operating, driven by civilians, to help deliver fuel across the country.

Mr Johnson has sought to quell concerns, saying supplies were returning to normal while also urging people not to panic-buy.

A shortage of around 100,000 drivers has sown chaos through supply chains and raised the spectre of empty shelves and price increases at Christmas.

By the early morning rush hour yesterday there were already long queues of cars in and around London and on the M25 motorway circling the capital.

The gridlock has sparked calls for doctors, nurses and other essential workers to be given priority access to fuel, a move Mr Johnson has resisted.

Industry groups said the worst of the shortages seemed to be in London, the southeast and other English cities. Fights have broken out as drivers jostled.

The Petrol Retailers Association – which represents independent retailers, who account for about two-thirds of all the 8,380 UK filling stations – said on Tuesday that 37pc of its stations were out of fuel.

The shortages have added to an air of chaos in the world’s fifth-largest economy, leaving gaps on supermarket shelves. A spike in European gas prices has also tipped energy companies into bankruptcy.

Britain left the EU single market at the start of this year, preventing hauliers from recruiting drivers in the bloc.

The government has said it will issue temporary visas to 5,000 foreign drivers, a measure it had previously ruled out. 

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