The Government said last night it will continue with its contingency plans in preparation for a fuel strike, until a deal between the Unite union and fuel distribution companies has been formally agreed.
Union leaders were on the brink of closing a deal with six distribution company bosses in meetings last week overseen by Acas, the conciliation service.
But the Government said it would continue to take "sensible measures" by planning for a possible strike until a final agreement is reached.
The dispute, which has been brewing for more than a year, flared up last month when Unite announced that workers in five firms had voted to strike.
There was a spate of panic-buying of fuel by motorists last month after the Government advised them to top up their tanks because of the strike threat. Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, then came under attack from fire chiefs for suggesting people store petrol in a "jerry can". Days later, a woman from York was badly burnt when fumes ignited as she decanted petrol in her kitchen.
A spokesman for the Energy and Climate Change Department said yesterday: "We will continue to work on contingency plans to increase the country's resilience in the event of a strike."
Unite represents 2,062 tanker drivers, covering 90 per cent of supplies to forecourts, and is calling for minimum standards of pay, hours, holiday and redundancy.
The dispute concerns safety, pay and working conditions, but details of the proposed deal have not been disclosed.
Unite will meet later this week to discuss the deal, which was tabled on Friday following six days of negotiations.