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Panic-buying threatens UK fuel supplies for drivers, but strike ruled out over Easter

30 March 2012

On March 30, the Unite union ruled out a fuel tanker drivers' strike over Easter while talks continued to resolve the dispute. Some 90% of UK forecourts are supplied by the union's 2,000 or so members at the centre of the dispute.

Panic-buying of fuel by UK motorists has caused a backlog of  two to three days' supply
Panic-buying of fuel by UK motorists has caused a backlog of two to three days' supply

Panic buying after the government urged motorists to stockpile fuel in anticipation of a walkout has left drivers facing a wait of up to three days for supplies to be replenished.

The Petrol Retailers Association, which represents around 5,500 of the country’s 8,500 petrol stations, said: "This is exactly what we didn't want - people panic-buying."

Brian Madderson, chairman of the Retail Motor Industry (RMI) Petrol, said sales of unleaded had soared by 170% on normal Thursday sales with diesel up by almost 80% as a result of the warnings from ministers, criticised as premature by some. Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he warned the rush for fuel had caused a backlog among hauliers.

Asked how soon extra supplies could be delivered, he replied: "It's not going to be very easy at all. I think we're probably heading towards some difficulty this weekend just because the backlog is starting to approach two to three days."

He said the situation could have been avoided if the Government had engaged with haulage companies before issuing warnings to drivers.

"The message to the Government is, not only having caused this crisis, is to actually talk to the hauliers today about how they can best deal with this growing backlog. The pinch point is between the terminals and the forecourt tankers. We only have a certain number of tankers in this country."

Fire officers warned the public of the dangers of storing fuel at home after a woman in York suffered 40% burns when petrol ignited as she transferred it between containers in her kitchen.

Despite there being no possibility of a strike by tanker drivers for at least 11 days, motorists formed queues up to half a mile long at filling stations. In Dorset, police were forced to step in and ask seven forecourts to close temporarily because of fears for road safety.

Emergency talks between the ministers and hauliers were due to take place on March 30, while the conciliation service Acas is organising negotiations between employers and the union the following week.

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