The government has told the army to be prepared to help ease the UK’s growing fuel crisis – just hours after ministers said there were “no plans at the moment” to use soldiers to drive petrol tankers.
Army tanker drivers will be put on a “state of readiness” in preparation for deployment to ease the chaos at petrol forecourts, the government announced on Monday night.
Military drivers will now get specialised training in preparation for their possible deployment. Reports suggested as many as 500 troops could be drafted in.
An extension to ADR driver licences permitting drivers to maximise their available capacity, instead of being taken out of circulation for refresher training purposes, was also announced.
The move comes after many filling stations ran dry after drivers made a dash for the pumps amid fears a shortage of tanker drivers would hit supplies.
Throughout the day there were scenes of people using unlikely storage containers to get as much petrol as possible as panic buying swept the country.
High street retailer Halfords revealed it had recorded a 17-fold rise in the number of so-called “jerry cans” sold over the weekend compared with the same period a week earlier.
The move on the military came despite environment secretary George Eustice saying on Monday morning that the military would only be used to help with training.
“We’ve no plans at the moment to bring in the army to actually do the driving,” he said.
The army tanker drivers will deliver fuel to where it is needed most, and provide reassurance that supplies remain strong, the government said.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “The men and women of our armed forces stand ready to alleviate the transport pressures where they are felt most.
“That is why I have authorised their increased preparedness so they are ready to respond if needed.”
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, who issued the Military Aid to the Civil Authorities request, 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.
Earlier, in a joint statement, leading suppliers, including BP, Esso and Shell, said that with many cars now carrying more petrol than usual, pressure on filling stations should start to ease.