Panic buying was spreading around the UK today as retailers reported a surge in sales and one police force even began asking petrol stations to close temporarily for safety reasons.
There was also a run on jerry cans as worried motorists took the controversial advice of Cabinet minister Francis Maude to stockpile fuel.
Motoring organisations laid the blame for the panic buying firmly at the door of the government.
AA president Edmund King said: “There is no fuel tanker strike and therefore if drivers followed normal fuel buying patterns there would be no fuel shortage whatsoever.
“We now have self-inflicted shortages due to poor advice about topping up the tank and hoarding in jerry cans. This in turn has led to localised shortages, queues and some profiteering at the pumps.”
Mr King continued: “Even if we do have a strike which is unlikely, there will be seven days’ notice of strike action, and therefore time for drivers to fill up. The AA has advised all along that drivers should follow their normal fuel buying patterns.
“Theoretically if 30 million cars with half full tanks are advised to fill up over 24 hours, this means that 750 million litres of fuel would be sold, whereas average sales over 24 hours would be 90 million litres. Hence the top-up advice means that demand for fuel has increased more than seven-fold. So it is no surprise that the ’top-up’ advice has led to shortages.”
Dorset Police also urged the public not to panic buy and began asking petrol stations to close temporarily to stop motorists “queuing irresponsibly” and causing a danger to others.
Chief Inspector Nick Maton said: “There is no disruption to the fuel supply in the UK and members of the public should not panic buy.
“The actions of some motorists in queuing irresponsibly at petrol stations is causing danger to other road users.
“Police are taking action, requesting petrol stations to close temporarily in order to keep traffic flowing.
“Once the queues have dispersed, the petrol stations may reopen for short periods.”
Later, Dorset Police said the force was not closing all petrol stations in the county.
“Dorset Police will only be requesting the closure of the petrol stations worst affected by congestion in order to keep traffic flowing,” a spokeswoman said.
“Requests of this nature will be made direct from Dorset Police officers to designated petrol stations where necessary.”
Fire service officials have warned of the dangers of stockpiling petrol.
But despite this, sales of jerry cans and other fuel containers have soared.
Halfords reported sales of fuel cans up 225% compared with this time last year with motorists buying in “the thousands”.
Halfords commercial director Paul MClenaghan said: “It is clear that there is an element of panic buying with customers telling us they want to be prepared for any industrial action.
“Sales started rising dramatically after the Government issued their warning and advised motorists to fill up.”