Davey: “Unforgivable” that military drivers only now receiving training for fuel crisis

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Ed Davey has criticised the Government’s incompetence and failure to plan ahead, after it was revealed that 150 military drivers will only now receive training to drive petrol tankers despite months of warnings from businesses.

As Energy Secretary and chair of the emergency Cobra committee during the fuel crisis of 2012, Ed Davey developed contingency plans to ensure around 800 trained military drivers would be on hand to drive fuel tankers if needed in an emergency. A Ministry of Defence report from 2014 says army personnel had been “trained and on call to deliver fuel in the event of strike action by tanker drivers.”

However, since then the Conservatives have failed to ensure that military drivers have remained available to step in and alleviate the fuel crisis. This comes despite months of warnings from the road haulage industry about a shortage of drivers.

Ed commented:

It is unforgivable that military drivers are only now receiving the specialist training they need to drive fuel tankers. The Government had months to prepare for this crisis, but once again they are leaving it too late.

Plans were put in place during the last fuel crisis to ensure military drivers could step in and drive tankers if needed. But the Conservatives failed to learn the lessons and keep these measures in place, causing unnecessary chaos and damage to people’s lives.

This utter shambles shows how incompetent and out of touch Boris Johnson’s Government is. The public will rightly be angry that their lives have been thrown into turmoil yet again by the Government’s failure to prepare.

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  • Barry Lofty 28th Sep '21 - 4:01pm

    Keep up the pressure on the Government Sir Ed, don’t let them sweep it under the carpet yet again!

  • Charles Smith 28th Sep '21 - 9:00pm

    Gas station pumps ran dry in major British cities on Monday and vendors rationed sales as a shortage of truckers strained supply chains to the breaking point in the world’s fifth-largest economy.

    A dire post-Brexit shortage of truck drivers as the COVID-19 pandemic eases has sown chaos through British supply chains in everything from food to fuel, raising the spectre of disruptions and price rises in the run-up to Christmas.

    Drivers queued for hours to fill their cars at gas stations that were still serving fuel, albeit often rationed, and there were calls for National Health Service (NHS) workers to be given priority to keep hospitals open as the pandemic continues.

  • Graham Jeffs 28th Sep '21 - 9:19pm

    Rather than trying to ration purchases, fuel retailers would have been better advised to introduce a minimum purchase charge of, say, £30 to discourage the time-wasting fools who have simply been ‘topping up’

  • Trying to blame the government just makes him look silly and uninformed. This panic will be over within a couple of days – there’s only so many tanks and plastic bottles that can be filled. There’s no shortage of fuel and there’s not generally a shortage of tanker drivers either – most are much better paid than other HGV drivers. The original problem was with one company – Hoyer Petrolog UK (an outsourced contractor) which affected 10 BP filling stations. This was leaked to the press (some say deliberately to influence government policy on visas for migrant labour, others to falsely blame Brexit). The media then stoked up the self-fulfilling mass hysteria. Here’s why Hoyer Petrolog UK is short of drivers…

    ‘Lorry driver blames BP contractor’s ‘poor’ working conditions for fuel crisis’ [25th. September 2021]:

    …Andrew Meaden has claimed ‘poor’ working conditions at his former job is another key factor in the driver shortage, as haulage firms up and down the country struggle to recruit.

    The former tanker driver branded BP’s logistics contractor Hoyer Petrolog the “worst company in the world”.

    The 51-year-old told The Sun he had quit earlier this month after working for Hoyer for more than four years, and claimed drivers were leaving due to poor pay, long and unsociable hours, a lack of sick pay or holiday benefits.

    He said: “We love our job but we’re being treated like absolute s**t.

    “Drivers are leaving in droves, that’s why there’s a shortage.

  • Helen Dudden 29th Sep '21 - 8:20am

    I thought storing fuel in plastic bottles was against the law, a fire risk.

  • @Helen – FYI
    “You can store up to 30 litres of petrol at home or at non-workplace premises without informing your local Petroleum Enforcement Authority (PEA).”
    [https://www.hse.gov.uk/fireandexplosion/petrol-storage-club-association.htm ]

    This can be in up to 2 containers including “suitable portable metal or plastic containers”, however a plastic container is limited to 5 litres.

  • Helen Dudden 29th Sep '21 - 5:50pm

    Let’s all hope they are storing safely, and does not cause a fire.

  • For years economists and others have claimed there is little to no evidence that migration effects wages. Now we know from a real world ‘experiment’ that it does – big time!

    HGV drivers have long endured too often bullying management while seeing their wages flatline – falling substantially when inflation is taken into account. And that’s even before second order effects like the impact on housing costs of high inward migration are considered. With the supply of east European drivers cut off and some returning home, many UK drivers are reported to be getting big pay rises – and about time too.

    The fallout in trucking is probably headlining in the news because it so quickly impacts on supplies of food, fuel etc. but I’ll bet it’s far more widespread. For example, our house insurance is due for renewal very soon, so I used the BCIS residential cost calculator (free to use BTW) to estimate the rebuild cost. It’s up a stonking 30% in a single year. Hold on to your hats folks – inflation is going to be a wild ride.

    We have a substantial shortfall of drivers (and no doubt many other skilled trades) because no party has ever seriously addressed how to provide adequate training and now the birds are coming home to roost. We just don’t have the skilled people in the numbers required to run an economy the size of the UK’s.

  • “It is unforgivable that military drivers are only now receiving the specialist training they need to drive fuel tankers.”
    Given the 2012 decision and training delivery statement from the MoD in 2014, it would seem questions need to be asked of the MoD as to why training was not maintained, given dropping this would seem to give the lie to the army’s claims about skills development. Also the Government has a “reserve fleet of 80 tankers which the government keeps for emergencies.” [https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/explainers-58709456 ] which one would assume would mean they would also maintain a pool of drivers…

  • @Gordon – “We just don’t have the skilled people in the numbers required to run an economy the size of the UK’s.”
    We do. There are 9m economically inactive taxpayers in the UK, we only need circa 10% of these to become economically active …

    Remember there are circa 600,000 qualified HGV drivers in the UK, of which only circa 300,000 are working as HGV drivers…

    The retirement age going up from 60 to circa 70 effectively enlarges the pool of workers by 20~25%…

    Fundamentally, the problem with the UK economy is that those with the power to make change are stuck in some version of the past where its okay to exploit people.

    If the LibDems had any sense they would be supporting the Government in demanding that haulage companies step into the present day and invest in UK residents who wish to work in their sector. As others have pointed out, the problem has been known for a few years, yet it seems the major logistic players have done nothing other than to lobby the government in an attempt to maintain their current exploitative practices.

    Yes things are going to get more expensive, however it will have a major impact on those skilled workers who earn slightly more than the minimum wage. The only real problem I can see is whether some will demand maintenance of their “differentials” rather than accepting some erosion of differentials.

  • “Fundamentally, the problem with the UK economy is that those with the power to make change are stuck in some version of the past where its okay to exploit people.

    I agree with you there except that it’s not just the past – it’s also the increasingly feudal present.

    There may be “9m economically inactive taxpayers” but that doesn’t equate to the right skills in the right places. Skilled builders (not cowboys) are virtually impossible to find plus we’re short of nurses, doctors and many more skills besides HGV drivers.

    There is something fundamentally broken about our approach to training and also, all too frequently, about retaining people once trained.

    Adam Smith recognised, rightly, that education can’t be delivered by ‘the market’ so we can’t blame employers. It’s down to government to devise and implement a system that works for everyone concerned. That they have yet to do – I don’t think they even see the problem.

  • In an example of the multiple touch points for the supply crisis, this Guardian article https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/sep/10/from-coffee-to-microchips-how-the-supply-chain-crisis-is-disrupting-uk-plc has tracked a humble cup of takeaway coffee from its source, revealing the impact of global heating, shortages of workers and materials, and soaring prices.
    It seems there is Barista shortage – “Britain has faced a barista shortage amid a wider lack of hospitality sector staff, many EU workers who left during the pandemic and failed to return due to Brexit and ongoing pandemic restrictions.”
    How much safety and food hygiene training is required to competently operate an espresso machine?

  • Peter Martin 1st Oct '21 - 5:31am

    @ Gordon,

    “Skilled builders (not cowboys) are virtually impossible to find plus we’re short of nurses, doctors and many more skills besides HGV drivers.”

    True. But if we listen to many so-called progressives this will all shortly come to an end as a new generation of robots will take over our jobs. We’ll be able to sit lounging in our gardens watching robots mow our lawns, weed the borders etc We won’t have any money worries because it will all be paid for out of our Universal Basic Income.

    Back in the real world, many of us have worked excessive hours to finance our sons and daughters through university education courses that don’t lead to any significant advantage in the employment market. In other words they don’t create marketable skills. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing if this is understood from the start. If anyone wants to study at university they should be allowed to study what they are interested in, but there’s no reason why young people can’t learn to drive a truck too!

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