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Car travel drops to lowest level since July on back of fuel supply shortages

UK car travel last week fell to its lowest level since July 2021 on the back of the road fuel shortages.

Traffic on highway with cars.

Between Tuesday and Thursday of last week, car travel fell to as low as 86% of the pre-pandemic normal

Latest coronavirus travel statistics published today by the Department for Transport show that, between Tuesday and Thursday of last week, car travel fell to as low as 86% of the pre-pandemic normal.

The last time car travel was below 90% was in the last week of July and it was previously at 86% in the last week of April.

It wasn’t just car travel that declined – while all forms of road travel had been closer to 100% throughout the summer, they fell back closer to 90% last week. Light goods vehicle use was down by about 5% and HGV travel down by 2%.

“Not only did the fuel shortages, which had been managed successfully up until details of a Government meeting with the fuel industry and hauliers were leaked, leave millions of cars having to queue but they had a direct impact on commerce,” said Jack Cousens, the AA’s head of roads policy.

New figures from Kwik Fit also reveal how the fuel supply problems have hit drivers. Published as the shortage appears to ease in most regions, except London and the South East, the data reveals almost half (47%) of the nation’s drivers were affected. In the capital this rose to 75% of drivers, followed by 61% in the East of England and 54% in the South East.

Across the country, 8.5 million drivers decided not to make at least one car journey which they otherwise would have taken, while some 2.9 million motorists said they have not used their car at all because of the fuel shortage.

A total of 1.7 million drivers missed work because of the fuel problems while more than one in 10 (11%) of drivers  cancelled social plans.

And one in seven drivers (14%) say they have driven more slowly to minimise their fuel consumption, while 11% have replaced a car journey by travelling by bike or on foot. One in 12 (8%) say they have switched to public transport for a journey instead of using their car and around one in 25 (4%) have car shared on a journey they would have otherwise taken alone.

Roger Griggs, communications director at Kwik Fit, said: “There have been differences of opinion over the causes of the fuel supply problems and how they could have been avoided, but it’s clear from this research that there needs to be a robust plan for the longer term. With half of all drivers being impacted by local shortages it’s going to be unsustainable for people’s work, family and social lives if these issues are repeated.”

The fuel supply issues also reinforce the appeal of electric vehicles, with new data showing how the problems have accelerated demand for EVs.

The AA’s Jack Cousens commented: “Electric vehicles with charging at home, supermarkets and so many more places offers a new horizon away from the traumas of the fossil fuel trade.”

For more of the latest industry news, click here.

Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day.

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