Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Mayor Bans Gas Tankers From Roads

If Mayor Yury Luzhkov gets his way, Moscow's gas gypsies -- the rusty tankers that sell petrol to motorists along city roadways -- may soon be a thing of the past.

Introduced approximately three years ago to help Moscow drivers cope with a severe shortage of gas and gas stations, the tankers were one of the first symbols of free-wheeling Russian capitalism. But times have changed.

In the name of environmental protection and fire safety, the mayor has now decided to ban the tankers from operating within city limits as of June 1, a city transportation department official said Thursday.

"They're not needed anymore," said the official, who gave his name as Igor Vladimirovich.

Tanker workers have their own version of events.

"Some gas station paid someone a bribe," one worker on Dmitrovskoye Shosse, who identified himself only as Kolya, said heatedly.

Problems with tankers come down to competition rather than fire safety for motorists, agreed a traffic policeman on Nizhnaya Maslovka Ulitsa.

"Let them sell gas if they want to," said Lieutenant Vladimir Fomicho. "The only danger they represent is to some competitor's pocket."

Despite the pervasive smell of gasoline and the occasional spill from a hose, tanker workers insist their way of selling gas is more or less worry-free.

"We're just as safe as any gas station," said Kolya. "There can never be a 100 percent guarantee of no accidents. "

The ban is even more bitter for tanker workers given that the city itself -- through the state-owned company MPK -- controls over half of Moscow's 200-odd gas stations and handles all licensing for the 100 tankers that now exist.

But some Moscow drivers say they gave up long ago on gas tankers as corrupt dinosaurs from the deficit-ridden years after the fall of communism.

"They've already fulfilled their historical role," said driver Anatoly Vinogradov. Low-quality gas and a practice of cheating the customer by actually selling less gas than paid for has soured the tankers' reputation, Vinogradov added.

"You could put up with them when the alternative was to wait three hours in line at a state-owned station for gas that might be all gone by the time you reach the pump. But now there's no reason to."

Even the tanker faithful weren't overly disturbed by the disappearance of Moscow's mobile gas stations.

Mohammed Ghali, a self-described "regular" who pulled up in his blue Lada at another tanker on Dmitrovskoye Shosse, was philosophical.

"Just so long as I don't have to get out of my car and fill it up myself like they do in the West, I don't care whether it's at a gas station or on the street."

The ban is not the first attempt by the city government to rid itself of nomadic gas sellers. After a tanker exploded three years ago on Dmitrovskoye Shosse, setting two trolleybuses on fire and killing 11 passengers, Luzhkov banned the trucks from inside the Garden Ring and major nearby thoroughfares.