How long will the fuel shortage last? When the petrol crisis could be over - as PM considers drafting military

Boris Johnson is reported to be considering whether to activate the military for ‘Operation Escalin’ - but will it work?

Boris Johnson is thought to be considering sending in troops to drive oil tankers after days of panic buying saw filling stations in many areas run dry.

But drafting in the Army to deliver fuel to petrol stations will not on its own end the shortages on the forecourt, the industry has warned.

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The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) chairman Brian Madderson confirmed some training had been taking place “in the background” for military personnel.

But he warned it was not an “absolute panacea” and that there was no “single lever” the Government and the industry could pull to resolve the crisis.

So when will the current fuel crisis be over, and what is being done about it?

Here is everything you need to know.

What is being done about it?

The panic buying spree was sparked last week after concerns from BP were leaked that the shortage of lorry drivers could impact upon its ability to keep up with fuel deliveries.

The surge in demand led the 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 of them “partly dry and running out soon”.

With long queues at filling stations continuing over the weekend, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng announced on Sunday (26 September) he was temporarily suspending competition laws to allow the industry to share information so it can target areas where fuel supply is running low.

The move came after Johnson said the Government was creating 5,000 three-month visas for foreign lorry drivers in an attempt to ease the pressure on hauliers which has been blamed over the problems.

A statement by Shell, ExxonMobile and other industry bodies again insisted there was no “national shortage of fuel” and that the pressures on supply were the result of “temporary spikes in customer demand”.

Meanwhile, Edwin Atema from the Dutch FNV union, which represents drivers across Europe, said the offer of temporary visas would not be enough to attract drivers back to the UK.

“On the short-term I think that will be a dead end,” he told the Today programme. “So more is needed, and I think the EU workers we speak to will not go to the UK for a short-term visa to help UK out of the s*** they created themselves.”

Will bringing in the Army help?

With no immediate sign of the problem easing, Johnson is reported to be holding a series of meetings to consider whether to activate the military for Operation Escalin.

However, Madderson said it was not just a question of moving supplies to the filling stations as drivers had to load up their tanks at the gantry at the terminal, which was a skilled job.

“There has been training going on in the background for military personnel,” he told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “But that’s perhaps just confined to moving the tanker by articulated truck from point A to point B.

“One of the difficulties is loading, and the tanker drivers currently load their own tanks at the gantry at the terminals, and then most are providing the delivery to the forecourt.”

“This is a skilled job and we will be working with Government and industry to see how we can best move it forward.”

He said that he hoped the oil companies would be able to find extra personnel to help with the gantry loading.

When will the fuel crisis end?

It’s difficult to say just when the current fuel issues will be ironed out.

Elizabeth de Jong, policy director at trade association Logistics UK, told BBC Breakfast consumers must stop panic-buying to ease the fuel crisis while the Government implements longer-term solutions to tackle HGV driver shortages.

She said: “We are seeing the impact of panic buying, we have been assured through the Petrol Retailers Association and we have been assured by some of the larger petrol companies in the country that there is enough fuel for everyone, but yet we have become very concerned and are buying and buying and have caused a very big problem.

“I represent and have been dealing with the Government over the general shortage of HGV drivers, we have got a number of announcements there about increased tests, funding of new visas, so there are issues in the industry and some of these will take a while to resolve, some of these can be resolved, so a lot is being done, but we really need to keep calm, just as we did through Covid with toilet rolls, for this not to continue.”

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