Fuel duty rises, grumbles from the Road Haulage Association, the nights drawing in - there’s a strong whiff of the dismal atmosphere of the autumn of 2000 when the country was brought to a standstill by disgruntled tanker drivers.
It triggered a wretched period for the petrol retailing network and many retailers went under with the subsequent advent of two-tier pricing. No-one wants a repeat of that. But there is a groundswell of anger from all directions about the punitive tax on fuel, which is only going to get worse - unless the PRA’s campaign to put a hold on the forthcoming rises is successful.
At a time when motorists are becoming increasingly concerned about the scarcity of service stations in certain areas, why does the government press ahead with a fuel tax policy that will put a further squeeze on margins and further jeopardise the livelihoods of the smallest retailers, particularly those battling it out in the sticks? It makes the introduction of a grant system, such as is available to vulnerable retailers in Scotland (see page 18) much more of a necessity, and something worth fighting for elsewhere in the UK.
But very different to 2000, at least these days the general public is more clued up about why fuel prices are on the rise. Motorists know they are a target, and there’s not much they can do about it. They understand it’s not down to the retailers.They need fuel. And while fuel prices remain in the spotlight, forecourts can use the opportunity to help ease their customers’ pain by making the experience as convenient and pleasant as possible.
Talking of which, a visit to the Frasers’ winning site in Brize Norton would certainly help to put a smile on their faces. Congratulations to an excellent team.