Rural fuel stations under threat from coronavirus lockdown
Many fuel stations, particularly in rural areas, will have to close over the coming weeks as sales dry up.
The warning comes from the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), which says it’s essential for filling stations to stay open to aid travel for key workers and freight, but this is proving a challenge for many operators.
Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) figures show the extent of the decline. A survey of nearly 60% of filling stations across the UK was published last weekend and showed petrol sales were down by 75% and diesel by 71%.
The BEIS survey also confirmed that more than 60% of filling stations had full storage tanks of both grades, which would have been bought by independent stations days or weeks earlier at much higher wholesale prices than today following the collapse in Brent Crude prices.
The PRA explained: “The situation will particularly impact PFS in rural areas where fuel volumes are right down. We will aim to keep a strategic network of petrol stations open across the country, but people should check their petrol station is open before they go to fill up.”
With fuel retailers also facing challenges in terms of staff shortages, unrelenting fuel price competition from supermarkets and lack of flexibility on delivery loads and credit terms by some fuel suppliers, the PRA is recommending that the Government instructs fuel suppliers to give the same 60-day credit terms to independent filling stations as they give to the supermarkets.
Chairman Brian Madderson continued: “Fuel retailers are having to maintain pump prices at previous levels 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.
“Petrol stations are the Government’s tax collectors, with duty and VAT representing 70% of the pump price. It is in their interests that we remain open for business.”