New Government data shows a surge in demand for road fuels. Diesel sales were up by 7.9% in the month to 14 March, compared with the same period last year, and petrol sales increased by 5.6%, despite a long-term trend of decline, and overall sales of both fuels, including commercial, were up by 7.0%.

PRA chairman Brian Madderson commented: “Latest Government data suggests that increased economic activity and cheaper prices had a significant impact on the demand for fuel in the month to 14 March.

“However, much of this increase will have been taken by the big four supermarkets that have been using fuel prices in the increasingly bitter competition for shoppers at their beleaguered out of town mammoth stores.”

He said the strong sales trends also reflected an extra trading day of the Leap Year and the relatively weak petrol sales in the same March period last year.

However year to date sales growth for both petrol and diesel are ahead of last year’s figures. Diesel sales growth for the year to date is 5.8% versus 3.2% for the full year of 2015, and the decline in petrol sales slowed to 0.7% versus a decline of 2.0% during 2015.

Madderson said the increasing sales were leading to greater income from duty for the Treasury, and justified the continued freeze in duty announced in the Spring Budget.

For the year from April 2015 to March 2016 oil receipts (duty) from petrol and diesel sales were up £466m (1.7% higher) compared with the previous year.

He said: “It was helpful the Chancellor listened to the submissions from industry including PRA and froze duty in the Spring Budget for a further 12 months.”