Fuel sales plummet after panic over 'strike threat'


Sales of fuel over Easter fell by almost a third compared with a year ago in the wake of the panic buying by motorists after the Government advised them to top up their tanks because of the threat of a strike.

The Retail Motor Industry said that over the four-day weekend sales of unleaded petrol were 29% lower than the year before, diesel was 2.9% down, super diesel 60% lower and super unleaded 39%.

Some motorists already had plenty of petrol after panic buying last month, while some garages were out of stock, said the RMI.

The bad weather also contributed to fewer people travelling over the holiday period, it was suggested.

Garages were swamped with motorists filling up cars and petrol cans at the end of last month after Government ministers urged them to keep their tanks topped up after fuel tanker drivers voted to go on strike.

There were chaotic scenes and long queues at garages across the country following the Government's advice, which was heavily criticised.

Labour led calls for the resignation of Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude for advising motorists to store jerry cans of fuel in their garages.

Talks aimed at averting strikes by the tanker drivers were adjourned last night and will resume today.

Leaders of the Unite union spent all day negotiating with officials from six haulage firms under the chairmanship of the conciliation service Acas.

Chief conciliator Peter Harwood said: "I am encouraged that talks are continuing and that the parties are committed to finding a way forward."

The dispute over terms and conditions and health and safety has been brewing for more than a year but flared up last month when Unite announced that workers in five firms had voted to strike.