PM Johnson says 127 drivers applied for UK fuel trucker visas

The haulage industry had been asked to provide the details of drivers who were willing to come to Britain.
The haulage industry had been asked to provide the details of drivers who were willing to come to Britain.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (REUTERS) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday (Oct 5) that 127 drivers had applied for fuel trucker visas amid an acute shortage of drivers that has strained supply chains to breaking point.

Mr Johnson told BBC TV that the haulage industry had been asked to provide the details of drivers who were willing to come to Britain, and it had only given 127 names.

"What that shows is the global shortage," he said.

The Times newspaper reported that just 27 fuel tanker drivers had applied.

British military personnel in fatigues, meanwhile, began delivering fuel yesterday to ease the acute trucker shortage that triggered panic buying at the pumps, though  Johnson denied the world’s fifth largest economy was heading into crisis. 

Military personnel were photographed by Reuters at several fuel depots in southern England driving tankers, some with instructors, and then delivering fuel to a gas station.

With fuel companies and supermarkets warning that a shortage of drivers was hitting deliveries, the government said late last month that it would temporarily reverse its immigration rules and give 5,000 visas for European Union drivers to operate in Britain.

It said 300 of those could arrive immediately to drive oil tankers.

Mr Johnson, meanwhile, has denied that Britain was in crisis due to a shortage of labour or that it was facing a 1970s-style inflationary spiral.

Mr Johnson said that businesses had mainlined on low-wage imported labour for nearly 25 years and that they should now pay their workers more and invest more.

Asked by BBC radio if the United Kingdom was in crisis, Mr Johnson said: "No. I think that on the contrary, what you are seeing with the UK economy and indeed the global economy is very largely in the supply chains, the stresses and strains you would expect from a giant waking up and that is what is happening."

He added, however, that businesses need to spend more. "What you saw in the last 20 years or more, almost 25 years, has been an approach whereby business of many kinds, was able to mainline low wage, low cost, immigration for a very long time," Mr Johnson said.

Asked if the UK was heading for a 1970s-style inflationary spiral, he said: "I don't think that the problem will present itself in that way and I think actually that this country's natural ability to sort out its logistics and supply chains is very strong."