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Fuel sales suggest home office could be here to stay

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Fuel sales at filling stations across the UK are still 23% below their pre-lockdown levels even though restrictions have eased, according to newly released government figures.

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy’s latest data reveals daily diesel sales are still 20% down than before lockdown, while petrol sales are 26% lower than would be expected. Sales now stand at 13, 670 litres and 5,360 litres respectively.

While pubs, restaurants, hairdressers, hotels, outdoor gyms, museums, galleries, cinemas, places of worship, community centres and libraries are now allowed to open, this new road fuel sales data suggests many people are still cautious.

Average sales per filling station have only gradually increased since mid-April and in the week ending 5 July were up just 3.2 per cent compared to the previous week.

Responding to the new data, Greg Wilson, founder of Quotezone.co.uk, one of the country’s leading car insurance comparison sites, says: “As the lockdown begins to ease we’ve been expecting to see the level of road use across Great Britain start to climb back up – especially with reduced use of public transport, but this newly published data shows that we’re still quite a long way off pre-lockdown levels.

“Although the move to step 3 in the government’s recovery plan saw the most significant easing of lockdown measures in England so far, it only came into effect on Saturday 4th July, so it’s likely we’ll see road use gradually increase a little more in the weeks ahead.

“However, the very modest 3.2% week-on-week rise in fuel sales suggests many motorists are still cautious, in which case it might be the autumn or later before the traffic on Britain’s roads is back to pre-lockdown levels – particularly since government guidance still states that anyone who is able to work from home should continue to do so for the time being.

“While this obviously isn’t good news for petrol station owners, there is a financial upside for office workers who plan to continue working from home, because it means they could continue to save an average of £108 per month on road fuel during that time.

“It’s also worth mentioning that some car insurance companies are willing to reduce motorists’ premiums to reflect the lower annual mileage they are likely to clock up if they continue working from home. We’d advise these drivers to speak to their insurance providers about changing their mileage figure and potentially lower their premium in line with that, if they haven’t done so already.”

In the eight weeks prior to lockdown being imposed on 23 March, average daily road fuel sales were 17,690 litres per filling station. The lowest average daily figure recorded was 2,500 litres, on 12 April, at the peak of the pandemic. Figures for the first part of the lockdown from 23 March to 10 May were down 71% on pre-lockdown fuel sales.

The report used petrol and diesel sales figures from 4,500 filling stations, which make up over 50% of petrol stations in Great Britain. The study covered the period from 27 January 2020 to 05 July 2020.

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