There was a renewed threat of strikes by fuel tanker drivers after they "overwhelmingly rejected" proposals aimed at averting industrial action, the union Unite said.
Unite's Diana Holland said in a news conference that while "important progress on health, safety and training" had been made, the drivers needed "more guarantees and assurances from the employers about their commitment to meaningful minimum standards".
The union added that they would now approach conciliation service Acas for their assistance with further talks with employers in a bid to avert industrial action.
– Diana Holland, assistant general secretary of Unite
We remain committed to achieving a negotiated settlement that brings stability and security to a vital industry and gives this workforce, and the public, confidence that the race to the bottom is ending."
About 60 representatives of drivers at seven haulage firms have been discussing proposals drawn up during six days of negotiations at the conciliation service Acas.
The dispute is over a series of issues including terms and conditions, pensions and health and safety and flared up last month after Unite announced that drivers in five companies had backed strikes.
Acas said they were "disappointed" by the rejection of the deal.
Naturally, we are disappointed at today's outcome, following the parties' intensive talks at Acas over the last two weeks.
– Peter Harwood, Acas Chief Conciliator
We are contacting the parties and the challenge now is to see if we can find a way forward.
The union will have to name strike dates - or other forms of industrial action - by Friday afternoon unless employers agree to extend the deadline. Seven days notice must be given if strike action is taken.
There were chaotic scenes at garages as long queues built up, leading to criticism of the Government for the way they had handled the dispute.
The AA have urged people not to panic buy fuel after today's announcement.
This does not necessarily mean that there will be a strike as talks are likely to resume.
Our message to drivers is to continue with their normal buying pattern for fuel.
– EDMUND KING, AA PRESIDENT
There is no shortage of fuel and we don't want to re-create another self-inflicted shortage.
The Government added their disappointment at the failure of a deal and maintained that any strike action would be "wrong and unnecessary".
We are disappointed that an agreement has yet to be reached. We understand that these are complex issues but urge both parties to work towards a negotiated resolution with the support of Acas.
– Edward Davey, Energy and Climate Change Secretary
The Government continues to believe that any strike action would be wrong and unnecessary.
Hoyer, one of the firms involved in the dispute, said the rejection of the deal was a "serious blow".
The decision by Unite to reject the proposals agreed between employers and the union after six days of constructive dialogue through Acas is a serious blow.
The team from Hoyer, along with other key industry employers, engaged fully and professionally in these talks and remain open to negotiation with a view to achieving a positive resolution to this dispute and avoid the possibility of any damaging strike action by Unite.
Having reached this point, Hoyer will now reflect on all available options.
– Hoyer statement
However, we have made comprehensive contingencies as a business and we remain committed to ensuring that despite any strike action by Unite, we make every effort, together with the armed forces, to maintain fuel supplies to a level that keeps disruption to business and the general public to an absolute minimum.