BINMEN could be pressed into service to ensure South Holland receives vital fuel supplies if tanker drivers carry out their threat to go on strike.
South Holland District Council leader Gary Porter is trying to find out how much it costs to hire fuel tankers and how long it takes to train HGV drivers to drive them to ensure people in the district are not left stranded in rural areas unable to access vital services such as hospital and doctor appointments.
He believes South Holland would be particularly hard hit if fuel supplies to petrol stations dried up, like they did during the big fuel protest in 2000, because of the rural nature of the area.
He said: “If the binmen were unable to go out and collect rubbish because there was no fuel for their trucks, then maybe they, and any other suitable volunteers, can be trained quickly to drive fuel tankers to go and pick enough up to ensure South Holland’s supply is maintained.
“If it came to a situation where fuel was not easily available, we could then look at the possibility of village pool cars, or fuelling buses, to ensure people could still get to vital appointments.
“The country cannot be held to ransom by a handful of people and I have a duty to this community to ensure that services are delivered.”
Tanker drivers are currently threatening to strike over terms, conditions and safety standards, with union Unite, which represents 2,000 drivers who deliver to Shell and Esso garages as well as supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s and Tesco, saying it wants minimum standards covering pay, hours, holidays and redundancy.
The Government is already looking at contingency plans to minimise disruption caused by any industrial action, with 80 drivers from the RAF beginning initial training to drive fuel tankers to keep vital supplies moving.
Glynis Kemp, of GMK Panic Link, a family-run refrigerated transport courier company based in Holbeach, believes the forward planning should be enough avoid to avert disaster.
She said: “If the pumps were to run dry it would be devastating and spell the end for us, but with the armed forces on standby I believe things won’t get that bad.
“In 2000 the Government just wasn’t prepared but this time it is totally prepared for it and has had the brains to get the army on standby, so I have every faith that it will all be OK.”
However, Serena Coupe, owner of independent filling station The Stores in Holbeach Drove, said the proposed strike is a major concern.
She said: “People are definitely worried. They are all talking about it and some are coming in every few days to keep their cars topped up with fuel.
“I have been speaking to our deliverers and it seems as though the strike will definitely happen and it will have a terrible effect on us because this is our livelihood.”