Motorists, petroleum dealers, truckers and bus operators say a proposal by the petroleum ministry to keep fuel outlets open only from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., will not work. They say this will only result in people tanking up on fuel, instead of achieving the ministry’s aim – a decrease in usage.
“If this proposal is implemented, we will have long queues at petrol bunks. Petrol is an essential commodity and you cannot restrict its use by consumers. The proposed timings do not seem very feasible – 8 a.m. is when peak traffic hour begins. If people queue up to fill up fuel, nobody will go to office or school on time,” said M. Govindan, a resident of Valasaravakkam.
In the city, most autorickshaw drivers fuel up just before their last trip for the day, which is generally quite late in the night. Metropolitan Transport Corporation buses too, fuel up on the way to depots.
N. Karunakaran of CITU Auto and Taxi Drivers Association said that most autorickshaw drivers drive until their tanks are dry. “They fill up to the bare minimum. There are many times when autorickshaw drivers take money from passengers to fuel up, as they cannot afford it. This proposal will not help reduce the use of fuel. It will only affect the common man who tanks up for Rs. 50 or Rs. 100 at a time whenever he needs it,” he said.
There are a total of 4,000 fuel outlets in the State and 800 in Chennai, Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram alone. Of these, around 40 per cent are on highways. “The suggestion from the minister does not take into account fuel outlets on highways, where business starts peaking from 9 p.m. and goes on till 1 a.m. Most trucks leaving the city fill up during the night along highways. Though there is a need to conserve fuel, this is hardly the way,” said K. Suresh Kumar, general secretary, Indian Oil Dealers Association.
Trucks however, can still manage, but private buses will be sorely affected. M. Chandrasekaran, vice president, Tamil Nadu Omni Bus Owners Association, said that the suggestion would only lead to drivers filling up their vehicles well in advance of their departure time. “Hundreds of private buses leave various bus termini and they fuel up just before taking in passengers or even after they are on board. It would be difficult if the bunks closed at 8 p.m. Perhaps they could be kept closed just from midnight to 6 a.m.,” he said.
A.R. Damodaran, president, Tamil Nadu Petroleum Dealers Association said that it was just not feasible to close bunks in major cities at night. “Many places on the outskirts of cities along highways have become part of cities themselves. “It would be better to close bunks on Sundays. A few company bunks alone could be kept open. In US for instance, fuel outlets outside cities are closed on Sundays, he said.