Strike action hits motorists hard
Hundreds of filling stations have been forced to close as the strike by more than 600 Shell fuel tanker drivers enters its fourth and final day.
Around one in 12 stations - or 700 of the 9,000 nationwide - saw their petrol stocks hit zero as a third day of protests in a pay dispute began to hit supplies. The areas hardest hit are reported to be in parts of central Scotland, the North West and South West England.
The strike action, by drivers from two companies that deliver fuel to Shell-branded forecourts, began at 6am on Friday morning and ends today. The drivers are unhappy with a reduced pay offer and, despite resolution talks with union Unite, have picketed sites across the UK.
Before the strike action began, both the government and oil and transport industries urged motorists not to panic-buy fuel. Prime Minister Gordon Brown even threatened calling in the Army to keep fuel flowing, warning that the government would do everything it can to stop petrol pumps running dry.
Time to panic?
A spokesman from the UK Petrol Industry Association (UKPIA), which represents oil refiners, was keen at the start of the strike to reassure motorists that a fuel shortage is not on the cards.
“We have good stocks of petroleum in the UK – enough to last the next four days certainly. If motorists fill up in a responsible manner and don’t panic-buy then there will be no problems,” he said.
The AA also urged drivers not to waste their time - and money - queuing at petrol stations.
It points out that a car sitting in a queue for 20 minutes adds 30p to its fuel bill.
Edmund King, president of the AA, said: "The typical petrol tank gives a car a range of 400 miles – if you normally fill up once every three or four weeks and have a fairly full tank, joining the line for a petrol station
doesn't make much sense.
"An industrial dispute affecting just one in 10 petrol stations is no reason to queue unnecessarily, and waste fuel and money."
Future for petrol prices?
The strike is expected to have a knock on effect on motorists’ wallets. Last week, the price comparison website PetrolPrices.com warned that the strike could push the price of diesel well past the £6 a gallon mark.
A spokesman for PetrolPrices.com, says: “We are definitely expecting prices to go up as a result of this action. Over the weekend some forecourts upped the price of diesel by over 3p per litre, whilst we heard of one
Shell-branded station in Manchester actually increase the price of unleaded from £1.15 to £1.29 per litre. By the next time we get a trading update later today we expect the price of diesel to be well past the £6 a gallon mark.”
Figures from the AA show the average price of petrol is currently 117p a litre, while diesel is 130p a litre.
Motorists have been hit very hard by the soaring price of oil over the past 12 months – with the cost of a litre of petrol increasing from 92.8p per litre in March 2007. As a result, the International Energy Agency believes
motorists are starting to shun their cars – with demand for petrol falling by as much as 20% over the past 12 months.
Recent research by uSwitch.com claims that if petrol hits £2.30 in 2009, it will cost more than £3,800 a year just to keep a car on the road, and could be enough to force many motorists off the road altogether.
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