PANIC-buyers caused queues across the town’s petrol stations last night following a threat of strike action by fuel tanker drivers.
Despite Huddersfield retailers warning that supplies of petrol and diesel were arriving on the forecourt as normal – queues built up across the town.
Some stations used signs to notify drivers they had run out of fuel.
Asda in Brackenhall ran out of Diesel at 6pm. At around 6.45pm a cashier at the station said: “It has been absolute chaos here today.
“We have probably had somewhere around 5,000 cars through so far.
“It has been non-stop because of the proposed strike by tanker drivers regarding health and safety conditions.”
Similarly Mohammed Aslam from the Total garage on Leeds Road said: “There have been a lot more cars than normal.
“I haven’t had a minute to breathe since I started my shift at 6pm.
“Even compared to yesterday, it has been a lot busier.”
Jane Barrett, manager of CJ Stern’s Scar Lane filling station at Milnsbridge warned that the mad rush for fuel caused a greater problem and driver’s shouldn’t panic.
She said: “If everyone starts panic-buying and putting more petrol into their cars than they would normally, that will create a problem.”
She stressed that Unite, the union involved, would have to give seven days’ notice of strike action, but said some people were clearly ignoring the “don’t panic” advice.
The Government faced increasing criticism last night over its handling of the fuel drivers dispute amid signs of panic buying by motorists and a controversial call to fill up jerry cans with petrol.
Petrol station operators said the Government appeared “intent on creating a crisis” which could see forecourts run dry within days, as some garages start rationing fuel.
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude landed himself in trouble after suggesting that drivers should fill up any spare jerry cans with petrol and keep them in garages even though motoring organisations and energy firms have urged people not to panic buy.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said the advice should be withdrawn because of the threat of fire, warning it would “massively increase” fire and explosion risk.
The AA said it did not advocate drivers hoarding petrol at home or in their garages. Edmund King, AA president, said: “Petrol vapours can be volatile and can be a fire risk. Filling car fuel tanks from a jerry can is difficult and can lead to dangerous spillages. Transporting or storing too much petrol can also be illegal as there are strict regulations on keeping petrol for domestic use.”
Sales of petrol were up 45% on a normal Tuesday yesterday, and sales of diesel up 20%, in what appeared to be a sign of panic-buying by motorists, said Brian Madderson of the Retail Motor Industry Federation, which represents independent forecourt operators.
Mr King said: “If 30m people suddenly want to fill up 50-litre fuel tanks then you could have a shortage.
“It’s totally inappropriate for people to panic-buy. No strikes have yet been announced and there is enough fuel out there as long as people do not fill up unnecessarily.”
Esso, which has its fuel distributed by Huddersfield-based Hoyer UK, said: “At this stage no strike dates have been called and the potential remains for a resolution to the matter.
“In the event of a strike, Esso will do all it can to maximise fuel supplies to its service stations and other customers, working with the Government and Hoyer.
“We would ask motorists to stick to their normal buying patterns.”