Monthly diesel demand by cars and commercial vehicles in the UK has pushed above 2.5bn litres for the first time, reflecting a growth in road traffic driven by light goods vehicles.
However, petrol consumption by UK drivers continues to struggle to recover despite falling pump prices, up only 19m litres or just 1.3% on the previous month, and below the same month last year.
Official figures show that, in November, diesel sales set a new record of 2.501bn litres, up 144m litres or 6.1% compared with October (2.357bn litres) and 64m litres higher than in November 2013 (2.437bn litres).
Diesel pump prices fell from 128ppl at the start of November 2014 to 126ppl by the end. This compares with an average of 137.8ppl in November 2013.
The rise in petrol consumption was much slower, up to 1.498bn litres compared with 1.479 billion in October. Petrol prices in November fell from around 124ppl to 122ppl, nearly 10ppl less than the summer high of 131.70ppl in June.
A year ago, when November petrol prices averaged 130.4ppl, motorists got through 1.523bn litres, latest figures from HM Revenue and Customs reveal. So, despite lower prices in 2014, petrol consumption has fallen.
Department for Transport statistics also reveal that, in the third quarter of this year, car traffic rose 0.6% compared to the previous quarter. However, HGV traffic was up 1.1% and light goods vehicles were up 2.9%. Car and HGV activity remains below late 2009 levels, while LGV levels are 12.6% higher than in the third quarter of 2009.
The number of petrol cars fell by 1.5% (288,500) in 2013 compared with 2012, while the diesel car population increased by more than 7% (679,000).
Edmund King, AA president, commented: “Once again, the official statistics illustrate the trauma of cripplingly high pump prices over recent years. In 2012, you could see the petrol consumption rise and fall in line with prices. Now consumption is struggling to get out of the rut created by drivers and families being forced long-term to adopt fuel-saving travel patterns to make ends meet.”
“It suggests that the savings from lower pump prices are being used to balance the books of family expenditure rather than increasing mileages. This points to the likelihood that much of the spare cash will find its way back to the high street.
“Whether that continues as pump prices fall further, we shall see. It took the UK motorist two years to adapt to dealing with price surges on the forecourt and it will take a long time to ease the fuel-saving habit.”