FairFuelUK, the Nationally Recognised Award Winning Campaign fighting for lower petrol & diesel prices, is widely accredited with stopping £30 billion of road user taxes being levied on businesses & public in this Parliament
Quentin WillsonQuentin Willson is one of Britain’s best-known motoring authorities and is lead campaigner for FairFuelUK. He spent over a decade presenting BBC's Top Gear and was largely responsible for bringing the once scandalously high prices of new cars in the UK down to the same level as the rest of Europe.
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Freight Transport AssociationThe Road Haulage Association    The Association of Pallet NetworksMicrolise help our customers to reduce the cost and environmental impact of their fleet operations.The RAC
Wednesday, August 26, 2015

At the meeting with Howard Cox on 18th August, PRA was represented by their Chairman and a retailer from Hampshire who owns and operates 4 local filling stations. The retailer emphasised that the pricing agreement with their supplier was "Weekly Lagged” and then explained how it works – this week’s prices (which take effect on Tuesday) are based on the average of the previous week’s prices. Then a price is calculated based on the average of their agreed marker sites. This produces a "Supported Price” and the margin that results is shared with the supplier on the basis of a matrix which forms part of the supply contract. However, the retailer often has to sell below the agreed price to remain competitive in the local area and, as a result, takes the full hit on margin. A 1ppl cut in pole sign price costs 0.83ppl - often a very substantial part of the margin.

It is disappointing that Howard insists on referring to crude oil prices despite telling him repeatedly that retailers only buy refined product which is separately quoted by Platts ( a division of McGraw-Hill). Recently there have been considerable differences in the grade prices.

Howard also conveniently ignores the fact that the retailer has stock in their tanks, sometimes considerable volume which has to be sold before dropping the price. More likely, the retailer drops the price immediately taking the hit on margin

This is illustrated in the table below.


Oil company fuel cards were mentioned due to the very low card commissions at around 1.40ppl and just 0.77ppl for Bunker diesel. This clearly reduces the overall margin achieved as the independent segment has 70% of the specialist hi-speed refuelling facilities for HGV’s so supply a large part of the on-road fuel to this sector. Without this network the fuel costs of many haulage companies would increase as they would have to divert off route increasing delivery/product prices for everyone.

The retailer advised that an average annual gross margin of 5ppl is needed just to sustain the business but that isn’t a maximum it is just a target that the retailer has yet to achieve over a financial year. This market cannot be judged in a single day, or even a week – it really should be considered over a much longer period, a year minimum.


Brian Madderson
Chairman Petrol Retailers Association


Please have your say on this issue in the largest survey of UK Driver Opinion: CLICK HERE

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Quentin Willson with Jason McCartney MP a great supporter of lower fuel dutyFirst the good news. There’s so much oil sloshing around in the world that nobody quite knows what to do with it all. Storage tanks are brimming over, tankers holding 50 million barrels idly float on oceans and America and Saudi Arabia are pumping out so much crude they’ve added an extra two million barrels a day to global supplies. If Iranian sanctions are lifted another 500,000 barrels could add to this massive spike in oversupply. Experts are now revising their predictions and saying that prices could fall to the mid $30 range (that’s pre 2008 levels) later this year. Venezuela and Nigeria are close to bankruptcy, Russia’s inflation is running at 16%, oil workers are threatening to go on strike, big commodity houses are shedding hundreds of millions in value and all because the black gold is at its lowest point for six years. This rapid fall is unprecedented and shows no sign of stopping. For the oil industry, the good times definitely aren’t rolling.

But for you and me this means as much as a year of cheaper petrol and diesel. Or at least it should do – and here’s the bad news. If the falls in the wholesale price on a barrel of crude (and the wholesale price a litre of fuel) were reflected at the pumps we’d be looking at prices under £1.00 a litre very soon indeed. But that might take longer than everybody hopes because - as the Petrol Retailers Association told Howard Cox this week - those savings aren’t passed on to consumers anything like as quickly as they should be. We now have official confirmation of what everybody’s suspected for years - fuel that retailers hold on to that extra margin of profit for as long as they can. We’ve called this the ‘Rocket and Feather Effect’ – fuel goes up like a rocket and down like a feather - and FairFuelUK has been complaining bitterly about the injustice of Rocket and Feather for years. The PRA claim that these extra slugs of profit gained when oil goes down help insulate independent petrol retailers from periods when their margins are much lower – typically only 3p a litre. And we understand that smaller, independent filling stations have a tough time with so much competition from the supermarkets. But over the last few months some filling outlets have been enjoying over three times their usual profit per litre. Is that fair? Well you tell me?

But now we know the truth there’s a bigger question here: the supermarkets and oil majors buy their wholesale fuels in billions of litres so they get a much greater discount and therefore a much bigger margin when oil prices change. The financial benefits they enjoy from oil price fluctuations could be much greater and the degree to which consumers are being disadvantaged much worse. We have to ask ourselves if there’s another commodity that we’re forced to buy so regularly that has such elastic profit margins – and the answer is no. So why have we had to tolerate this pricing opportunism for so long? Given what we know now it’s entirely possible that some of the big fuel retailers have been taking as much as 15p profit per litre, which on a family car fill up is an extra £7.50p. Across the year that’s nearly £400 - a fortune to most struggling families and for a business an unnecessary extra cost to sales and profitability. We just don’t think that’s fair.


And now the metaphorical cat is out of the proverbial bag and we know that our suspicions about Rocket and Feather are indeed true, we’re calling for an inquiry into fuel pricing, the tax taken by the government to be clearly stated on fuel receipts and for the difference between the wholesale and retail prices of petrol and diesel to be freely and openly published for all to see. This government has made much store of pricing and tax transparency and making sure consumers always get the best deal. They’ve done it with the banks and utility companies so why not the road fuel industry? Armed with this new information about the realities of Rocket and Feather this government now has a moral obligation to do the right the thing. FairFuelUK is here to make sure that it does.


Quentin Willson

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

6 Months of evidenceFollowing a long awaited face to face meeting with the Petrol Retailers Association, the FairFuelUK Campaign are told that Independent Filling Stations; do indeed have no choice but to hold onto any falls in wholesale prices they receive longer than they would like in order to stay in business. This is confirmation of the ‘rocket and feather’ pricing changes that millions of drivers have always believed is taking place. They also admitted that in contrast, when wholesale costs rise, prices increases at the pumps are more immediate.

UK motorists and commercial drivers already have to put up with the highest fuel duty taxation in Europe with 66% taken by the Exchequer. But if that is not enough, they also have to suffer these clandestine commercial vagaries of such inconsistent pricing at the pumps.

The one thing that is clear; oil companies, wholesalers and fuel distributors favour the Supermarkets which puts unjustifiable pressure on independent filling stations to lower prices. They say this is too much to compete with to stay in business. 150 independents are closing each year because of this uneven playing field they claim faces them. All because of the 4 supermarket giants that together account for 44% of vehicle fuel supplies across the UK. It is clear that in these recent times of the falling value of oil, retailers and in particular supermarket chains, have enjoyed significantly higher than normal profit margins at the expense of hard pressed motorists and commercial drivers by not passing on these falls at the pumps in the right amounts or at the earliest point in time.

Howard Cox Founder of the FairFuelUK Campaign said:  "Decades of bewilderment as to how prices at the pumps are determined continues undiminished amongst 37m UK drivers. In the last 6 months petrol prices at the pumps have soared by 8%, during which time the wholesale price has risen only 1% and oil has plunged 19%.  In the same time, retail profit margins have more than tripled for petrol and doubled for diesel. Only yesterday the Petrol Retailers Association admitted to FairFuelUK that their members do delay passing on beneficial price cuts when wholesale purchase prices fall, in order to stay in business. They blame pressure from the 4 big supermarket chains who dictate what we pay at the pumps.  But for motorists and commercial drivers there remains no clarity or justice in the ill-defined impenetrable world of fuel pricing. That is why our 1.1 million supporters backed by 80 all Party MPs are demanding an open and honest inquiry by the CMA into establishing pricing transparency at the pumps.” 

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Monday, August 17, 2015

Sign our Govt Petition to get the Politicians to listen and actAt FairFuelUK we make a difference. Having so many passionate activist supporters – all 1.1 million of you – has allowed us to help this government deliver lower transport costs for everybody. This, as the Treasury told us, has made a difference to the country’s economy. But Howard Cox and I believe we can help make other differences too - and not just financial ones - important life saving changes. Roads in the UK face many challenges but one of the greatest and most urgent is safety. And road safety doesn’t begin with hectoring anti-car rhetoric it begins with teaching young drivers better and for longer. You probably didn’t know this, but every year we lose 400 lives in young driver accidents, which for a first world economy like ours is completely unacceptable. The cost of such a death toll to our society is half-a billion pounds every year, never mind the intolerable, heart-breaking sadness of so many lives lost. So many families so totally devastated and so much potential needlessly wasted.

For the last five years I’ve been arguing for driving and hazard perception training at school as part of the national curriculum. I believe that every child in this country should be trained at an early age to better understand the seriousness, danger and responsibilities of driving. I’ve had meetings with ministers, MPs, the Department for Transport and even the Select Committee on Transport. And while politicians and civil servants broadly think early driver tuition is a good thing, nothing ever happens. There have been no less than three attempts at a Green Paper on Young Drivers but each one has been postponed and parked with no outcomes. Government, it seems, just doesn’t have an appetite for forcing any significant change in the way young drivers are taught. We at FairFuelUK think there has been too much prevarication and delay and too many needless casualties. Its time to force a change in the way our kids are taught to drive.

And the exasperating thing is that we know early driver training does indeed make a difference. The Swedish government ran a pilot project comparing two groups of several thousand young drivers. One had pre-licence training and the other didn’t. When the accident statistics of the two groups were compared after two years of post-test-driving on public roads, the group who had been trained at school showed a 41% fall in accidents – one of the highest crash reductions ever recorded. There’s a slew of other data too from other countries but it’s not hard to see how compelling the early driver training argument actually is. Trying to get a 17-year-old to absorb road safety messages is like explaining your hobbies to an Easter Island statue – because they’re just not listening. And why would they? Years of Grand Theft Auto 5, Fast and Furious, Top Gear, Grand Prix, Mad Max and Saints Row means that any sensible dialogue about driving carefully with most teenagers is a tough call. The cult of virtual driving on a gaming console has made taking risks on the road a rite of passage and a badge of rank. Sad, but true.

Messages about good driving are better embedded when the mindset is pure – before it’s been corrupted and corroded by ten thousand virtual crashes seen on a computer screen. Train kids about driving responsibilities and hazard perception when they’re as young as 12 and you stand a chance of them retaining and understanding those messages for much longer, maybe even forever. And here’s another obvious point about early driver training. Expecting our kids to learn everything about driving in a short – usually yearlong – window is optimistic in the extreme. Wrestling with clutches, gears and handbrakes as well as learning to spot hazards and dangers at the same time is simply asking too much. The below the dashboard stuff is what they should learn on the road – the hazard perception, road positioning, junction reading and theory should be learnt in the classroom and at special young driving centres. We send our kids out on the roads with not enough theoretical training and that’s why so many of them never come back. We’re not teaching them to drive we’re training them to pass a test. The real craft of driving begins not on the road but in the classroom.

We want a fundamental shift in driver education so it begins earlier in a child’s life to ensure the greatest impact and longest retention. We teach citizenship at school, managing money, on-line safety and how to write a CV. So why is it we don’t teach driving? Of all the skills taught on the national curriculum surely learning how not to hurt yourself and others at the wheel or a car (or riding a bicycle) should be given much greater importance. We’re not, emphatically, not asking to lower the driving age, just the age at which driving is taught. And to those who say young driver training will be an encouragement for some kids to borrow the family car for joyriding – there’s just no data to support that view. We believe the benefits of training kids to drive at school far outweigh any potential negatives. And here’s the chilling statistic around which this urgent campaign is based: 25% of all 15-19 year-olds who die in the UK are killed in cars and a fifth of that vulnerable age group crash within six months of passing their test. This is a shocking, needless death toll that has to change, soon.

With this petition FairFuelUK is using research from the UK’s leading young driver training organization – Youndriver.eu - who have 40 centres nationwide and since 2009 have trained 250,000 12-17 year olds. Their current data shows an accident rate of half the national average for kids who complete the course. The private sector is already doing what the government won’t and the results solidly bear out the early training argument. I’ve already put two kids through Young Driver courses and the difference in attitude is amazing. One of those kids is a console gamer and he now recognizes the critical difference between the virtual and the real. His mind set has changed completely. And to those who say we can’t afford to add driver training to the government’s educational burden, I’d say that we can’t afford not to. Each one of those 400 fatalities costs around a million pounds in NHS, police, ambulance, fire service and insurance costs. Factor in the loss of potential and productivity from all those kids who never reach adulthood and the total bill to our society is virtually incalculable.


That’s why I’m personally asking you as a FairFuelUK supporter to sign this petition. If we can get to 100,000 signatures we get a government debate in the House of Commons and the engagement of politicians. We’ll be forcing a change and stimulating a national debate which will involve TV, radio and newspapers and propel this critical issue into the mainstream. From our experiences with fuel prices, Howard and I have learnt that too many politicians and civil servants don’t understand enough about roads and driving. They need well-argued evidence-based campaigns like ours to inform them for the urgency of change. I believe that this is the most important petition you’ll sign all year and the only one that will literally make a life-saving difference. Together we’ve changed fuel taxation forever, now its time to do something much, much more vital. Please sign up now and get as many friends and colleagues to as well. Get this right and together in the next decade we’ll have helped save literally thousands of precious young lives. There can be nothing nobler or life changing than that. Please sign up now.

Quentin Willson

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Have you say in the largest ever survey of UK driver opinionWe could be at the breaking dawn of an era of cheap fuel. OPEC’s risky gamble of wiping out the U.S fracking industry by over-supply and unsupported prices looks like its backfired, badly. The Saudi’s got their timing wrong. They couldn’t have predicted that the US economy would rebound so strongly and that Asian demand for oil would fall so significantly. OPEC put themselves between a rock and a hard place and couldn’t raise prices for fear of losing Chinese market share and so far the U.S shale industry is surviving the enforced price war by cutting costs by up to 50% and drilling even deeper. The new 18,000 ft. Texas Permian Basin (drilled in just 16 days) could produce 5-6 million barrels a day – that’s half the Saudi’s daily output from a single field. America’s is now pumping the highest amount of oil for 43 years and has broken the market control OPEC has held since the Seventies. Fracking isn’t going to go away because new technology will reduce extraction costs, feasible reserves will increase and oil prices will find a natural market level.  And I don’t believe we’re there yet.

That’s why last week Shell has said it’s preparing for a ‘prolonged downturn’ in crude prices while oil majors across the globe cut both investment and jobs to buffer themselves against the effects of a 50% fall in crude prices. But the falls aren’t going to stop because a new dialogue with Iran and possible lifting of sanctions means the oil oversupply situation that’s pushed crude to record lows will continue with more pressure on crude benchmark prices. Some analysts are even saying that Brent Crude could fall to as low as $35 next year.  For UK drivers that could mean that petrol and diesel could slip below the magic £1.00 threshold – something we’ve not seen for decades – which will lower interest rates, reduce inflation and raise GDP.  The balance of power in the Middle East may shift with global repercussions that may eventually concern us all, but in the short to medium term oil, like many other commodities, will continue its downward price spiral. There’s just too much supply and not enough demand.

Have your say in the largest survey of UK driver opinion
But this historic shift in the price metric of hydrocarbons has caused serious damage to Russian, Malaysian and Venezuelan economies and news that Saudi Arabia has just announced that its going to raise $27 billion from bond sales is further proof that the strain might be starting to show. U.S shale production is stronger and more resilient that previously thought. This game of chicken between the US and the Saudis can’t continue and someone has to blink first but the oil kingdom shows no signs of abandoning their price war and is pumping more oil than ever. Experts say that if they do start reducing supply to bolster prices it may be too late because the risk of losing market share to other global producers desperate for petroleum dollars is now too high. The geopolitical consequences of all this are not good at all. Vladimir Putin is trying to distract Russian citizens from an economic collapse by aggressive militarism and if the Saudis can’t afford to keep social unrest contained then Isis, Iran and religious fundamentalism will gain more ground across the Middle East. Oil, as we’ve always known, can influence global and political boundaries and is the catalyst for war. And when those boundaries start to shift uneasily, we need to worry. So in the short term enjoy the era of cheap fuel – because it’s coming – but in the long term the effects of this phoney war may be far more serious than anybody dared dreamed of. Be careful what you wish for.     

Quentin Willson  
Help us to help you for a better deal for UK's Drivers and have your say in the largest ever survey of Uk driver opnion FairFuelUK

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FairFuelUK is managed by Howard Cox and Quentin Willson (TV Broadcaster and Motoring Journalist).
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