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Army tanker drivers trained by fuel logistics company Hoyer and other haulage firms began delivering supplies today (4 October) to petrol stations hit by the fuel crisis.

The move closely follows the government announcement late last week that its emergency visa program for truck drivers, dubbed “Scrooge Visas” because they were originally set to expire on Christmas Eve, has been extended into 2022 to help tackle the UK’s HGV driver shortage.

The government said 300 fuel drivers would be able to come to the UK from overseas “immediately” and stay until March. Another 4,700 visas for foreign food truck drivers will last from late October to the end of February.

Meanwhile the government today (4 October) launched Operation Escalin which will see around 200 troops, of which half are fuel tanker drivers, helping to deliver supplies, largely to filling stations in London and the South East, which have experienced the worst shortages.

Hoyer, which delivers fuel to around 25% of the UK's petrol stations has helped train army personnel from the 3rd Logistic Support Regiment. The army drivers will use a mix of Hoyer and military vehicles to make deliveries.

A Hoyer spokesperson said: "A group of 60 military drivers among those deploying to five hauliers in the industry have completed company training with Hoyer UK driver training instructors in recent days in readiness to begin fuel deliveries.

"The training was a refresher course for these drivers who have previously been on deployment training with Hoyer UK as part of national contingency planning. The refresher course included classroom-based work covering company safety procedures as well as equipment familiarisation and forecourt driving manoeuvres.

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"The military personnel will be based at a number of locations mainly around London and the South East and will be driving a mix of Hoyer UK tankers and vehicles from the Government's reserve tanker fleet."

A government spokesman added: “We are working closely with industry to help increase fuel stocks and there are signs of improvement in average forecourt stocks across the UK with demand continuing to stabilise.

“Stocks in London and the South of England have been recovering at slightly slower rates than other parts of the UK, so we have begun deploying military personnel to boost supply in these areas.

“More than half of those who have completed training to make fuel deliveries are being deployed to terminals serving London and the South-East of England, demonstrating that the sector is allocating drivers to areas most affected in this first phase from Monday.”

Operation Escalin was originally drawn up in preparation for possible fuel shortages following Britain’s departure from the EU at the start of the year.

The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) welcomed the move. PRA chairman Brian Madderson said while the crisis was “virtually over” in Scotland, the North and the Midlands, more than one-in-five filling stations in London and the South East were out of fuel.

The launch of Operation Escalin comes just one day after the Conservative Party Conference began in Manchester where Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the fuel crisis is “abating” and that the military is being deployed as a “precaution”.

However Johnson refused to rule out shortages in the wider economy in the run up to Christmas and also acknowledged the country was going through a “period of adjustment” following Brexit, which had seen thousands of European workers leave the UK.