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Petrol tanker driver lightens the load in Sittingbourne


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If it wasn't October, you might have mistaken this chap for Santa Claus.

He had come from Purfleet bearing gifts of diesel and unleaded petrol in his 37,000-litre fuel tanker.

The most welcome man? A fuel tanker driver arrives at the Esso garage on the A2 in Sittingbourne
The most welcome man? A fuel tanker driver arrives at the Esso garage on the A2 in Sittingbourne

When the man from Hoyer drove his tanker onto the forecourt of the Esso garage on the A2 at Sittingbourne the town's motorists breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Drivers already queuing, hoping to top up their tanks, watched as he carefully connected giant tubes to the underground storage pits and began pumping.

I had been sent to talk to neighbours living next to petrol stations and couldn't believe my luck when the tanker turned up, as if on cue.

"Can I have a chat?" I asked the driver.

"Not now, but when I've finished, ask away," he replied, insisting I stay behind a safety barrier.

Fuel tanker arrives at the Esso garage on the A2 at Sittingbourne
Fuel tanker arrives at the Esso garage on the A2 at Sittingbourne
A fuel tanker arrives at the Esso garage on the A2 in Sittingbourne
A fuel tanker arrives at the Esso garage on the A2 in Sittingbourne

As it happened, I soon became bored so I asked him how long it would take.

"A garage like this can take about an hour to fill," he said, amiably.

For a chap on the frontline of Britain's petrol crisis he seemed remarkably cool and collected.

He preferred not to be named but said he came from a depot in deepest Essex and covered the whole of the south east.

"It depends, but on a typical day we do three trips," he volunteered.

Video: Fuel tanker in Sittingbourne

Three? That didn't sound very much. That's probably why the Army has been mobilised.

So what do people say when they see him?

"Most people have been pretty welcoming," he said. "I've had no major issues."

And with that he disappeared around the other side of the his truck to juggle with his pipes.

While most of Sheppey seemed to be getting back to normal, many fuel stations in Sittingbourne and the rest of Swale were still suffering shortages.

The BP garage in Sittingbourne
The BP garage in Sittingbourne
Car salesman Steve Solley of St Michael's Garage, Sittingbourne, says queues for fuel have affected business
Car salesman Steve Solley of St Michael's Garage, Sittingbourne, says queues for fuel have affected business

Both the Texaco garage on the A2 near Key Street and the BP garage at the junction of Grovehurst Road and Mill Way were out of fuel on Monday.

Car salesman Steve Solley, who works at St Michael's Garage on the roundabout, admitted: "It's been carnage. We are near three garages, the BP one, Morrisons and Asda, and all roads seem to lead to us.

"There is constant swearing and lorry drivers keep beeping at car drivers who are stuck and can't get out of the way. Other drivers are just trying to top up because they are low on fuel. I saw one drive round the roundabout the wrong way.

"People get so frustrated but they shouldn't take it out on innocent victims desperate for fuel."

He added: "It's had an affect on us. People still come in looking for cars but they don't want to take them on a test drive. They look at the traffic and think it will take hours just to get back here."

Traffic queuing for the Shell garage on the A2 at Sittingbourne has ended up in front of residents' houses
Traffic queuing for the Shell garage on the A2 at Sittingbourne has ended up in front of residents' houses

A nearby children's nursery also complained about the swearing. A worker said: "We have children in the play area in the garden and they can hear what is going on. We've had to tell drivers off."

Tammy Woods, 32, a mum of three, lives next to the Shell garage on the A2 near Borden Lane and has to put up with long lines of cars and vans queuing outside her front door.

She said: "Some people can't get their cars out because of the traffic. It's been pretty manic but luckily I don't have a car."

Neighbour Mark Roberts said: "I've taken to parking my car in another street. I don't notice the problems during the day while I'm at work but at night I can see orange indicators flashing all the time through my curtains. They don't need to do that. You can see they are in a queue."

Gillian Gray who lives opposite the Texaco garage on the A2 at Key Street said: "We've had no trouble this side of the road but the chap who lives next to the garage didn't have his dustbins collected because there were so many cars parked outside his house the other day the dustmen couldn't reach him.

No queues as Texaco garage on the A2 at Key Street, Sittingbourne, ran out of fuel on Monday. Traffic had queued past a house next door
No queues as Texaco garage on the A2 at Key Street, Sittingbourne, ran out of fuel on Monday. Traffic had queued past a house next door
No fuel at the Texaco garage on the A2 at Key Street
No fuel at the Texaco garage on the A2 at Key Street

"We felt so sorry for him when we found out."

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