Rising costs, crime may shut petrol stations at night

Petrol stations need to close shop at night, otherwise up to 15% will shut down before year-end, the Fuel Retailers’ Association warned on Tuesday.

“It is too expensive and too dangerous to stay open at night,” said CEO Peter Morgan.

The association is now asking its 1 500 members—all of them service-station owners—for a mandate to lobby the government to put pressure on oil companies to allow them to close shop at night.

Morgan said it is expensive to keep petrol stations open at night in the current economic environment. “We are a regulated industry and we can’t change our prices. Yet costs are going up and volumes are going down.”

He said high crime rates at petrol stations at night exacerbate the situation.
“We have ATM [automated teller machine] bombings, cash heists and consumers driving off without paying.”

Many of the association’s members are currently under so much pressure that they were considering closing down. But if oil companies give them permission to close their doors at night, it will save their businesses.

“I would rather have service stations survive [by closing at night] than lose between 10% and 15% of service stations by the end of the year,” said Morgan.

There are about 4 800 petrol stations in South Africa. They are bound by their contracts with oil companies to stay open at night.

“We closed service stations at night in the 1970s. Why can’t we do it again?” Morgan asked, adding that a few stations can remain open to accommodate motorists on main roads.

Morgan said he has raised the issue with the director general of minerals and energy and that he is now trying to get a mandate from his members to lobby the government to put pressure on oil companies to change the rules.

“The oil companies have come up with no suggestions [on helping struggling service stations], so we’ll try and get the government to put pressure on them.”—Sapa

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