The Kent-based head of a petrol retailer’s group has called for an independent inquiry into the fuel crisis amid ongoing shortages.
Industry leaders say recovery has been too slow as the military continues to be called upon to plug gaps in available drivers and deliver to packed forecourts across the county.
Around one in eight filling stations in Kent and the South East are still reported to be running empty of petrol and diesel.
Brian Madderson, chairman of the Petrol Retailers’ Association, said: “Recovery is simply not happening quickly enough.
“We are into our 15th day of the crisis and we’re calling for an independent inquiry so that motorists in the future are protected from such acute fuel shortages as we’ve all had in recent days.”
The PRA, whose members operate around two-thirds of forecourts, report that just 71% of filling stations in London and the South East are offering both petrol and diesel today. This is compared to 90% in the rest of the country.
Meanwhile, a survey shows 12% of filling stations in the capital and South East are still dry, while 17% have just one grade of fuel.
The PRA, says that the “current inept prioritisation policy” is not working, and that the government’s decision to suspend competition law to help firms work together “has been a failed experiment”.
Madderson claims that fuel supplies are being sent to the wrong parts of the UK and has called for an inquiry.
He explained how in one case a tanker had to return to the depot full because it had arrived at a filling station which had just been stocked.
“Since the Downstream Oil Protocol was invoked at 8pm on Sunday September 26 (more than ten days ago), we understand that meetings have taken place between BEIS and specialist hauliers and oil companies,” he said.
“These meetings were supposed to involve information sharing so that deliveries went to the areas where there were acute shortages.
“The independent dealer network (which numbers 65% of the total) has not had access to any of the information which was supposed to have been shared.
“We do not know when the deliveries are arriving and we do not know how they are being prioritised.”
The PRA says it wrote to the government to ask how the suspension of competition law would benefit dealers. But it claims it is yet to receive a response.
Mr Madderson added: “Whilst we thank the government for making available drivers from the military (which may in time feed through to increased supplies), suspending competition law has been a failed experiment.
“It is now time for the government to step back, reimpose competition law, and restore market disciplines so that ordinary business incentives drive the fuel to the filling stations which need it.”
The government says almost 200 military tanker personnel, 100 of which are drivers, were deployed from Monday to provide temporary support.
It says this forms part of its wider action to further relieve pressure on petrol stations and address the shortage of HGV drivers.
In a statement on Saturday, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Thanks to the immense efforts of industry over the past week, we are seeing continued signs that the situation at the pumps is slowly improving.
“UK forecourt stock levels are trending up, deliveries of fuel to forecourts are above normal levels, and fuel demand is stabilising.
He added: “It’s important to stress there is no national shortage of fuel in the UK, and people should continue to buy fuel as normal. The sooner we return to our normal buying habits, the sooner we can return to normal.”