The ‘madness’ of panic buying by motorists during the British fuel crisis, which hit a majority of the country’s 8,000 filling stations, showed early signs of disappearance, government and industry figures said on Tuesday.
Brian Madderson, chairman of the Petroleum Retailers Association, a trading body, said although the situation was still very difficult, while garages were dry within hours of new stock being acquired, its members saw signs of a relaxation.
“Panic buying continues, it certainly hasn’t disappeared, but it’s at a slightly less insane rate,” Madderson told the Financial Times.
‘Many of our members still have dry tanks, but we hope that a kind of balance between supply and demand can be reached by the weekend.
The government is under increasing pressure to overcome the crisis, which began with a limited disruption in the supply of fuel to filling stations due to a shortage of drivers of heavy vehicles, followed by panic purchases by motorists who emptied over the weekend.
Ministers have repeatedly said there is no shortage of fuel at refineries or storage depots, but they have army on assistance to assist with deliveries to garages if necessary.
The government has also loosened visa requirements for foreign HGV drivers and suspended aspects of competition law to allow fuel suppliers to collaborate and share data.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the government was seeing “very tentative signs of stabilization” after days of queues by motorists outside filling stations.
‘A lot of petrol is now being transferred into people’s cars, and there are now the first very preliminary signs of stabilization in the forecourt that can not yet be reflected in the queues, but this is the first time we see more petrol in the filling stations himself, ”he added.
“I think… The sooner we can all return to our normal buying habits, the sooner the situation will return to normal.”
The PRA said this week that between 50 and 90 percent of its members were affected.
Dan Myers, managing director of the UK and Ireland at XPO Logistics, one of the three major liquid distributors in the country, said demand for fuel was still rising by 50% on Monday compared to normal conditions, but falling by as much as a jump of 400 percent over the weekend.
He added that the number of filling stations leading up to the hundreds it provides has halved in the last 24 hours.
“It will take a while before the stock returns to normal,” Myers said.
There are concerns that the fuel shortage continues to cause a significant disruption to public services and industry.
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents health care organizations across the country, said fuel shortages has “the potential to impact the delivery of essential services to some of our most vulnerable people in society” as medical workers and caregivers struggle to find fuel for their cars.
The British Medical Association and trade unions have called on the government to give key workers preferential access to filling stations.
Sectors, including couriers and taxi drivers, have expressed concern about whether they can refill once their vehicles run out.
Industry executives have warned that data on the extent of the problem is at best unclear, without a centralized system to monitor the amount of fuel in garages.
“We are chasing our tails a bit, as stations can be refilled, but empty again within hours, so the data we have may soon become obsolete,” an executive said.
Additional post by Daniel Thomas in London