Fuel supply: ‘I’m at an Airbnb this week to avoid fuel queues’

image source, Lester Jayimage captionSome fuel deliveries have been affected by a shortage of lorry drivers, leading to panic buying and lengthy queues at some petrol stations

As lengthy queues continue to spread beyond fuel station forecourts, how are those affected managing to deal with the current situation?

"On one of our sites we had a delivery on Friday," says Steve Highland, who runs a chain of four independent fuel stations based in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire.

"It would normally have lasted until Tuesday but we'd sold the lot on that Friday."

He has been in the filling station business for 35 years.

"In all my years I've been doing this I've never known that sort of situation," he says.

"At another station we had a delivery yesterday, and it sold out yesterday."

The atmosphere among customers, he says, has been civil and he has not seen anybody coming in to fill up jerry cans.

"We operate on a 'just in time' system," he says, meaning deliveries are usually made just before the station's supplies run out.

"Just about every garage I know is monitored centrally by our suppliers and generally deliveries turn up at the moment when we are close to running out.

"At the moment that's not happening."

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During the weekend, Mr Highland says he spoke to customers to check their level of need for fuel. One, he says, was a patient needing to travel to hospital the following day for a planned operation.

Another, he says, was a heavily pregnant woman who wanted to ensure she had enough fuel to get to hospital in the event of going into labour.

He says some of those running fuel stations are facing a dilemma.

"One station owner I know was asking whether he should supply 1,000 cars so that people could get to work or 150 lorries to keep them on the road."

Faced with empty filling stations or lengthy queues has left some coming up with alternative arrangements.

'I decided I'd just book in for the week'image source, Simon Sinclairimage captionSimon Sinclair booked a rental property rather than worrying about fuel for his commute

Teacher Simon Sinclair lives in Bury St Edmunds, in Suffolk, and works at an independent school in Bedfordshire.

"I filled up last week," he says, "so I've got enough fuel to get home and back once or twice."

Rather than face closed petrol stations or lengthy queues during his daily 120-mile round trip, he decided at the weekend to book a rental property for the week.

The Airbnb he will be staying at is one he usually stops at one night a week to ease his commute.

On Monday morning, during his drive to Bedfordshire, he passed five filling stations which were empty of fuel. Despite being empty, he says, there were still people queuing outside.

"I will be staying in the Airbnb just until it calms down a bit," he says.

"My wife and kids should be OK for the week."

'Children could be late home from school'image captionCharles Sanders, of Sanders Coaches, says the problems at fuel stations are causing "serious delays"

Bus firm Sanders, based in Holt, Norfolk, is also experiencing issues.

"We've got two problems with the fuel shortages," says Charles Sanders, who co-owns the business with his brother Paul.

"The first is our staff are struggling to get fuel so they can't get to work," he says.

"The second is the queues outside the petrol stations are causing us serious delays, which means the buses can't always be where we want them to be on the timetable and children could be late home from school."

'This has made things worse'image captionKaren Powley says staff affected have the option of staying over at the residential home

Karen Powley runs the Mount Residential Home in Aylsham, Norfolk.

The home, rated good by the Care Quality Commission, provides personal nursing care to 19 men.

Ms Powley says there are concerns about whether staff can get into work because of the situation at the fuel pumps.

"Some of our people don't live locally who are travelling in," she says. "We've got a gentleman here who hasn't been able to get diesel for three days so he's had to stay over with another member of staff.

"We've also got some spare rooms here for any staff who are struggling with the fuel shortages. They can sleep on site but it is not ideal because people have got families that they need to get home to.

"It was bad enough during the Covid pandemic with staff shortages, so this has made things worse really."

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