Friday 30th March started fine and bright. The potential for a lovely day shone gleefully overhead. My run, as usual, took my along the A20 through Ditton to an archipelago of industrial estates just outside Maidstone. There was nothing out of the ordinary: the school children waited patiently, if a little friskily, for their buses and their strenuous day to begin; commuters sped on to work; and commercial vehicles got in the commuters’ way. My white van cruised at a cool 40mph to the traffic-lights that would allow me to cross the A20 and on to my objective. Traffic flowed. The sun blazed. God was in his Heaven.
Well, that’s what it felt like.
As I pulled across the A20 I ran into the back of a traffic queue. On the corner of the industrial estate there stands a mighty Supermarket… with a petrol station. Nothing out of the ordinary again. Except this station stood in the wake of some interesting statements uttered by people who should know better! The government called on car drivers to keep their tanks topped up in order to circumvent (i.e., break) a strike by the fuel-tanker drivers. Apparently, a minister advised motorists to hoard petrol in jerry-cans (BBC News) – not a clever thing to do. Then the PM backed down, saying ‘act normally’(Daily Mail)… Too late. Queues formed and forecourts ran dry. I chuckled at 7.45am: called those queueing numpties, steered around their collective rear-end and carried on.
At mid-day I got a call from my boss. How much fuel did I have? About half a tank, I told him. He informed me petrol stations were running low on diesel… and fast. I had to fill up sooner rather than later. I was at Faversham at this point. This was not my usual haunt for watering-holes for the beast of burden I drive: I was unsure of the local stations, but I wasn’t panicking. I knew there was a big BP station in Sittingbourne, but that may well have succumbed to the fuel-thirsty mob sucking pumps of their motive-force-giving juice.
On the A2 between Faversham and Sittingbourne I found a petrol station (I did know it was there, as I pass it practically everyday). I noticed there were few cars on its forecourt and pulled up briskly to an vacant pump. Not a frequent visitor to this station I first checked to see if they accepted my type of fuel card. They did. I returned to the van to top-up. Back outside queues had formed.
As I drove on towards Sittingbourne with my full-tank adding extra-weight to the van engine’s effort, I saw another fuel station. This one was closed: the sign said “no fuel”.
On the way home after work I pulled into an Esso station at Bluebell Hill to top-up my own car for the next week. Again, Fortune smiled on me. I put in my usual £40’s worth: and no more. I was lucky. Others weren’t so. Two contractor vans came in shortly after my arrival looking for diesel. All the black pumps had little yellow signs attached reading “out of use”.
New came in that a woman suffered 40% burns while decanting hoarded petrol. The fumes ignited, which they’ve a wont to do, and set her clothes alight. (Guardian.co.uk)
What came of all this?
No strike and no emergency measures do to lack of fuel. No RAF personnel in waggons desperately getting go-go fluid to forecourts.
Acas got the warring factions to agree to meet and those discussions would take a while… then the Union still needed to give seven-days’ notice. There was never going to be a sudden dearth of fuel-tankers on Britain’s round system. The traders bemoaned the government’s haste in ‘warning’ motorists. The same government that cashed the extra revenue cheques from the petroleum companies whose profits took an unexpected upturn. Those who queued and poured litre upon litre into your thirsty vehicles: what do you think was the result of your actions? Did you prevent a strike/a national disaster/chaos? Or did you just fill up needlessly and contribute to chaos.
Come on everyone, grow up!