Allstar Insights: The UK Refuelling Network
Status Report: The UK Refuelling Network
In the first of our Status Reports on the UK transport infrastructure, Ian Rose, Fleetcor’s Head of Networks, looks how the UK refuelling network is managing during the crisis.
As well as looking at the availability of fuel, and practical issues around supply and refueling, Ian analyses what the pandemic means for the refuelling sector and stations.
How is the fuel network coping?
According to the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) in early April, there were about 100 sites closed temporarily due to safety or staff issues, but that’s just over 1% of the network so it’s not a huge number in the overall scheme of things, and they have tended to be smaller sites in rural areas.
In terms of usage levels, according the PRA’s snapshot on one day, fuel demand was down by 59%, but on the flip-side shop sales were up, so it a mixed picture for the fuel retailer.
How are they being supplied? Well, it’s business as usual. We are aware that the terminals are fully stocked, there is no stress as far as getting product out, and the tank levels underground are about 10% higher than normal, according to the PRA. So there should be no problem sourcing fuel.
What extra measures are stations putting in place?
There are a variety of things sites are doing, some extreme, some less so. They are all implementing social distancing measures, marking out the floor, etcetera, and some are implementing early closing, purely in to response lower demand late at night.
How important is the refuelling network for helping businesses manage?
Clearly the network needs to be there for the emergency services to access fuel, and do it in an unimpeded way. They are able to use their fuel cards at all sites too.
The network is being seen as an important public service to all customers, whether they are consumers or fleet, not just for fuel but top-up shopping as well. In the last 30 years, the fuel station network has become a very sophisticated retailer and where there have been issues with stock-outs at major supermarkets, these small convenience stores have stepped in to supply product. That is a benefit as they are more local to customers and businesses, which helps reduce travel times and distances needed to get goods.
What is Allstar Networks doing to help?
For us, it is business as usual. We are still able to take incoming calls from sites where they have card queries, or cards don’t work, and our Networks team are now functioning from home.
We are able to to investigate reports of closures or operational changes, and feed that information to our other teams, so that when our customers call, we are able to give them up-to-date information. So there has been no degradation of our service.
How do you see the fuel network looking after the crisis is over?
What the crisis so far has proven is that the fuel network is a vital part of our UK infrastructure, providing fuel and other goods and services from businesses and consumers. That stands the network in good stead for the future: I firmly believe the network will come out stronger as a result.