Oil tanker driver strike vote poses supply chain risk

27 March 2012

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27 March 2012 | Angeline Albert

Logistics companies that are relied upon by purchasers to deliver goods may not be able to do so if strike action voted for by UK oil tanker drivers goes ahead.

Oil tanker drivers delivering fuel to petrol pump forecourts across the UK yesterday voted for strike action in a dispute over safety and their terms and conditions. Members of the union Unite, who drive oil tankers for five major fuel distribution firms (Turners, Norbert Dentressangle, Wincanton, BP and Hoyer) voted to strike – a move which threatens fuel deliveries to Tesco, Sainsbury's, BP, Shell and Esso.

Geoff Dossetter, a spokesman for the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT), said: “The logistics industry is highly skillful and well used to managing in an innovative style, however there is a limit to what they can do when fuel is not available. Of course they will be looking to make efficient use of every drop of diesel but fuel efficiency is already top of the list for logistics firms.”

CILT estimates there are around half a million lorries and vans transporting goods around the UK and members will be looking to stock up on fuel.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) said because hauliers tend to buy fuel in bulk, rather than from petrol forecourts, the impact of any strikes will be lessened.

A spokesman for the RHA said: “The association believes that this action, when fuel prices are so high, by drivers who enjoy among the best working terms and conditions in the haulage industry, will not be welcomed by hauliers and the public and will have a negative impact on the economy.”

Unite is urging fuel distribution bosses to discuss drivers’ terms and conditions before dates are set for strikes. It argues that tanker drivers work in an increasingly pressurised industry where corners are being cut on safety and training in a bid to squeeze profits and win contracts. It said drivers face a ‘beat the clock’ culture where they are forced to meet ever-shorter delivery deadlines.

Meanwhile, Italian carmaker Fiat has halted production at all five of its plants in Italy in response to an ongoing strike by lorry drivers protesting over petrol taxes passed in the country’s budget.

 

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