The Federation of Petroleum Suppliers (FPS) the trade association for the oil distribution industry in the UK and Republic of Ireland says all its heating oil distributor members have been working hard for the past week in difficult weather conditions.

With heating oil order levels at double the seasonal norm, the heating oil distributors have been battling difficult road conditions across the UK to deliver heating oil to households in rural communities who are dependent on oil to heat their home.  Several of those, many of them small family firms, have been going above and beyond to get oil out to their customers, so people have essential fuel to keep warm.  One FPS member, Craggs Energy in West Yorkshire, came to the rescue of a lady with a young baby who needed heating oil, but her property was located on a road cut off by snow so inaccessible to an oil tanker.  This didn’t stop the Craggs team who set to and delivered heating oil by carrying containers ¾ mile to reach the lady’s house.

At its worst the snow and icy conditions reduced productivity at some member depots by up to 95% of normal in some of the worst affected areas, with large numbers of aborted deliveries.  For example, one member had a driver take three hours to make a single delivery due to the snow and the rural roads being untreated.  Another member achieved only three out of 16 scheduled deliveries in one day when normally, an oil tanker can anything between 16-25 domestic deliveries in a day.

Guy Pulham Chief Executive of The Federation of Petroleum Suppliers comments: “We would like to reassure people that our members are doing everything they can to get deliveries of heating oil out to customers in these difficult weather conditions.

“Many of our members have been implementing the Cold Weather Priority scheme that was launched last year by the FPS to help prioritise elderly and vulnerable customers.  Members local knowledge of their customers has helped to identify those customers, but we are asking if anyone has an elderly neighbour who uses heating oil to check if they are okay and, if they need heating oil to contact their local FPS member who will be able to help them.

“Our advice is – be patient – trust your regular local supplier.  Your local FPS heating oil distributor has depots and tankers operating in your local area. Please give them a call as they will be able to provide you with accurate local information and up to date delivery schedules.   Please also remember to check the level of oil in your tank on a regular basis as you may be using more heating oil in these conditions and tell your heating oil supplier when you will run out so that they can prioritise and don’t leave it until the last minute.”

During the last week, The FPS has also been in daily communication with the Government on this issue and as a result of that, is working with the Government resilience teams to get the roads in rural areas cleared so FPS member tankers can get to the refineries to collect product and reach rural households.  In addition, the FPS also sought and has received from the Department For Transport (DFT) and Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) an emergency exemption of the regulations covering drivers’ hours for FPS members.  Following communication between DFT and FPS, the DFT was of the view that the delivery of domestic fuel, in order to maintain supply to customers, could be considered to meet the criteria for an ‘emergency’.  Being able to use this exemption will enable FPS members to catch up on the backlog of deliveries, but this could take anything up to two weeks in some areas.

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