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Petrol sales rise by 45% as motorists top up
Petrol sales rose by 45 per cent yesterday (Wednesday 28 March) as motorists followed Government advice to ‘top up their tanks’ – but many filling stations are now running low on stocks and some have even sold out of fuel.
The AA has calculated that the increased sales caused by this panic-buying will raise an extra £32 million in fuel duty for the Treasury.
PM David Cameron has encouraged motorists to stock up on fuel as a precaution, following a vote by filling station tanker drivers to go on strike. The date of the walkout has not been announced – the union has to give seven days’ notice – but motorists have still begun stockpiling fuel.
This is expected to increase after Energy Minister Ed Davey this morning advised motorists to top up their tank when half full rather than just a third full – and to fill them right up instead of only putting half a tank of fuel in.
Dorset Police has since called for filling stations to temporarily CLOSE when queues build up, so motorists queuing “irresponsibly” do not disrupt the flow of traffic.
Yesterday’s rise in petrol sales was revealed by RMI Petrol Chairman Brian Madderson, who also said that diesel demand was up 20 per cent.
He told the BBC’s World at One that the Government “appear intent on creating a crisis out of a serious concern”.
Cashflow is so tight at filling stations, many are running the lowest stock levels ever, which means they can easily sell out of fuel if there is a rush on demand. “We weren’t given the opportunity to put that information across to the Government, so when we hear today that the Government are trying to encourage stockpiling, we think that’s just completely wrong.
“Cool heads must prevail here, otherwise we are going to run out of stock rather quickly – and by cool heads, that means the Government as well.”
Madderson explained that fleet operators, company cars and van drivers are not rushing to panic-buy, revealed by the lower increase in diesel sales – the main fleet fuel.
However, petrol is predominately the fuel of private motorists and the 45 per cent increase in sales suggests many are rushing to the pumps to stock up.
The AA supported the advice of the RHA. AA President Edmund King said: “Don’t panic. Don’t queue. Don’t fill jerry cans. There is no strike. Calm down.”
King was responding to advice from Cabinet Minister Francis Maude for motorists to fill up jerry cans with fuel and store it in their garage. This has been roundly criticised, with some motoring organisations actually pointing out this advice is illegal.
Apart from the risk of storing fuel at home, it is against the law to store more than two five-litre cans of fuel at home, yet the average jerry can holds around 20 litres.
The Fire Brigade Union said the advice was “wrong and must be withdrawn”. Transport Minister Mike Penning, himself a former fireman, later went on news channels to correct Maude’s mistake.
“Incalculable damage” on UK economy
The Road Haulage Association said any fuel strikes would have a big effect on the UK economy.“ Incalculable damage would be inflicted on an economy that is trying to recover from recession,” said the RHA in a statement, “with supply chains disrupted, people unable to go about their normal legitimate daily business and companies placed under great financial strain.”
RHA Chief Executive Geoff Dunning added that “many drivers of fuel tankers are not members of Unite, so those who have voted for strike action are in a minority.
“Furthermore, these drivers are all paid much more that the average for truck drivers generally, typically receiving over £40,000 per year.
“We are also concerned at the union’s implication that safety standards are low. The UK fuel distribution sector applies standards that are far above the legal minimum, with highly professional, well trained and properly rewarded drivers delivering the UK’s fuel.”
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