In what could possibly be the biggest civil action since poll tax riots 10 years ago, a convoy of fuel protesters are planning to travel England for four days, blocking motorways and cities along the way.
Demonstrators brought Britain to a near standstill in September when they mounted pickets outside oil refineries and depots. They dropped their blockades after a week but threatened to resume if the government did not cut fuel taxes by the middle of November.
As of yesterday, however, the government appeared to have abandoned any hope of avoiding the new batch of protests, since ministers engaged in tough talk aimed at turning the public against the protestors.
Prime Minister Tony Blair promised to back police officials who have told him that they will “vigorously” uphold the law when the protests begin again.
“We have to act responsibly and sensibly and no government can act on the basis of people threatening to bring the country to a halt, or even blocking food supplies, or threatening Armageddon or all the rest of it,” Blair told the Daily Mirror.
According to the published reports, the protesters have decided not to repeat their blockade of fuel depots because it was the tactic the government is most likely to be able to counter.
Instead, they plan a four-day drive towards London, beginning Nov. 10, with truckers setting out from Tyneside and being joined by others on the way.
The protestors are hoping Chancellor Gordon Brown will announce a concession on fuel tax when he makes his pre-budget statement on Nov. 8, but the government has so far ruled out any tax cuts.
Meanwhile in Germany, motor carriers, with their fuel costs skyrocketing by more than 70% since January 1999, are negotiating with shippers to raise their rates.
According to the Journal of Commerce, the Bundesverband Gueterkraftverkehr und Logistik, one of Germany's major trucking organizations, warned that many German trucking companies are grappling with “existence-threatening cost pressures” because of greater competition and soaring costs.
The BGL said overall costs for trucking companies in Germany have increased by more than 13% since January 1999.