27 October 2021

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During the period of fuel shortages, Allstar Business Solutions was able to monitor fleet usage and help businesses manage supply. Paul Holland, MD of UK Fuel, looks at the effects of the crisis, and what happens next.

The UK’s fuel crisis seems to be receding, and evidence is emerging that much like last year’s toilet paper shortage, the problem was not a genuine shortage but panic buying driven by small fluctuations in supply being blown out of proportion.

At the time of writing, everywhere but the South East of England seems to have normalised, but there are still lessons to learn. Our own customer data shows that the fuel crisis had a noticeable effect on the general upward trajectory of UK businesses recovery from the economic effects of the pandemic: September was looking like the best month of 2021.

The impact on business mileage

Collectively, our customers travelled an estimated 239 million miles in the week commencing September 6th, 240 million the following week and 252 million the week after that. During the week commencing the 27th of September this plummeted to 226 million miles (or a 10% drop in one week), driven purely by challenges in supply, given we have seen a steady recovery in activity as the UK has recovered from the impact of Covid through 2021. That said, the issue was less a crisis than a speedbump.

How real time information can drive fleets forward

But this is not to say that we weren’t actively helping our customers during this time. Pumps really were going dry, even if it was from panic buying, and this could have had a major effect on business customers with large fleets of vehicles that need to be running. Although the data shows that there was some effect on fuel usage from the crisis, it could have been significantly worse had it not been for the support of the UK's largest fuel card network.

Because our customers have access to real-time information from their fleet’s fuel card usage they could better plan how to optimise fuel use during a shortage. For example, the online reporting shows that if a fleet manager was told that Vehicle X is running low on fuel and couldn’t find a place to refuel nearby, they could see from their dashboard that Vehicle Y had just refuelled and direct Vehicle X to where they did so.

If drivers were reporting long lines at petrol stations, then fleet managers could use the data on when they last refuelled to schedule time to top their tanks up at a time that wouldn’t affect business needs.

Having a large multi branded network is the key advantage and value driver for our customers: with 90% of UK fuel stations included in our network, drivers using our site locator tool are never far from a service or fuel location. This meant that drivers didn’t have to wonder whether they would be able to use the nearest petrol station that had fuel.

What happens next?

We’ve seen how fragile the forecourt supply chain can be when hit by unexpected events like panic buying, with many sites only carrying three or four days of stock at a time. However, going forward, we don’t envisage there being any major supply problems.

Over the next few months, although the pandemic has disrupted seasonal trends to some extent, we can expect that there will be a small increase in demand for fuel in the run up to the holiday season but otherwise fuel demand seems to be steady. We also saw that despite the long-term trends affecting supply chains, heavy goods vehicles - which largely run on diesel - were largely unaffected.

Although we are not fully out of the crisis as yet, it is important to take stock of the previous incremental growth that our data is showing. Despite speedbumps like this, the country has recovered as much as it can following the pandemic disruption, with a few pockets holding out due to long-term business changes like meetings being conducted over Zoom instead of in person.

To learn more about solutions that will help, explore our range of cards.

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