The government may draft in soldiers to drive fuel tankers in the event of a strike that could disrupt road travel around the country, a minister said ahead of the result of a ballot expected on Monday.

We are encouraging stocks to be built up so that the essential services don't get left short. And we have asked the Ministry of Defence to start training a number of potential tanker crews so that we can do our very best to keep supplies going, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude told Sky TV.

The Unite union held a ballot for strike action earlier this month and expects the result on Monday afternoon.

While the government stressed that it has been active in preparing for any potential disruption, a spokesman at the Department for Energy and Climate Change said that no final decision had been made to deploy military personnel.

Wincanton, the biggest affected company, has been working with the government to try to ensure that tankers can be kept on the road.

We're working on the basis that a fully-trained MoD tanker driver should be perfectly adequately trained within about a week to conduct services on our behalf, Chris Kingshott, managing director for manufacturing at Wincanton said.

The government is making contingency plans in a bid to prevent a repeat of the effects of a strike by drivers in 2000 which caused widespread disruption of fuel supplies and dented the popularity of the government.

Contrary... to 2000, the government ...have been particularly proactive in trying to help support in the event that there is any action, Kingshott said.

(Reporting by Simon Falush and Michael Holden; editing by Jason Neely)