ITV News Business and Economics Editor Joel Hill explains how, despite indications the UK fuel situation is improving, the longer-term problems of driver shortages persists
Forecourt data shared by oil companies with government suggest that supplies of petrol and diesel reached their lowest ebb on Sunday and have since improved. According to internal figures collected by officials at the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), fuel stocks across the UK’s 8,400 petrol stations averaged only 10% of full capacity on Sunday. In normal times, when operations are running smoothly, the average daily level should be at 40% or above.
Fuel stocks recovered to an average of 16% of full capacity on Monday and have remained at that level during the course of today. The BEIS figures also show that demand for petrol and diesel peaked on Sunday.
Sales were double normal levels across the UK’s forecourt network and, in places, spiked by as much as 500%.
Fuel sales have since fallen, although that isn’t really surprising, given that so many forecourts ran out of fuel. According to a survey by the the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), which was published at lunchtime, one in three of its members' forecourts were dry this morning.
This was also a slight improvement on the situation at the weekend. The PRA represents independent fuel retailers and has sight of 65% of the market. The figures that BEIS holds present a complete and definitive picture.
Petrol and diesel stocks are still depleted and will take time to replenish, a job made more difficult because there is still a shortage of HGV drivers to deliver fuel. My understanding is that, across the industry, there are 300 vacancies which need filling. The government will be hoping that the panic is subsiding, that fuel stocks can be rebuilt and that there won’t be a need to deploy the 150 army drivers who have been put on standby, some of whom are still undergoing training to ensure that can transport fuel safely.
Earlier today, the prime minister appealed for calm and urged motorists to fill up their calls in the “normal way”. On Tuesday night, a government spokesperson said: "We are working closely with industry to help increase fuel stocks and there are now signs of stabilisation in the forecourt storage. "As the industry has said, we have ample fuel reserves and remain confident the situation will improve in coming days.
"The sooner we can all return to our normal buying habits, the sooner the situation will return to normal."