Motorists are advised to check whether their local petrol station is open before leaving to fill up. This is because independent fuelling stations face staff shortages through illness and self-isolating employees, as well as increased competition from supermarkets enjoying higher footfall and offering record-low prices at the pumps.
Drivers are being warned that rural petrol stations could soon close as demand for fuel has plummeted.
The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) pointed out that sales of petrol have fallen by 75% and diesel sales have fallen by 71%, with rural stations being hit particularly hard.
The organisation is working to keep "a strategic network of petrol stations open across the country” as businesses become unviable.
Motorists may have to travel further for their fuel and should check if their local station is open before leaving to fill up.
Brian Madderson, chairman of the Petrol Retailers Association, said: “To help freight move and help key workers travel safely and independently through this period of crisis, petrol filling stations must remain open, but this is proving to be a challenge.”
The dramatic drop in business comes as forecourts face staff shortages through illness and self-isolating employees.
Increased competition from supermarkets enjoying higher footfall and offering record-low prices at the pumps have only added to independent refuelling stations’ worries.
Mr Madderson believes that consumers aren’t benefitting from the savings on wholesale petrol costs as retailers have to maintain prices to avoid suffering significant stock losses.
“When the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and high sales volumes return, then we expect to see reductions in retail fuel prices.”
RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said: “While the pressure to reduce prices is significant, this presents enormous problems for smaller retailers who play a vital service in supporting communities.
“The last thing anyone wants is to see these businesses going under. In the long term this could mean there are fewer places to buy fuel which would be bad for more rural communities.”
As public transport services are considerably reduced and the outbreak of the Coronavirus gathers pace, key workers may face difficulties finding fuel.
Keeping independent retailers open for business could prove a vital source of income for the Treasury at this time of uncertainty.
The PRA chairman said: “Petrol stations are the Government’s tax collectors, with duty and VAT representing 70 per cent of the pump price. It is in their interests that we remain open for business.”
It is important to realise that independent petrol stations may be vital for key workers and rural communities, as well as for the Treasury. We can only hope that these businesses pull through along with every other business that is being affected during these uncertain times.