Without wanting to wade too deep into the emotive issue of the fuel crisis, I can’t help but get frustrated with the coverage focussing on supply, when the root cause is the increased demand caused by panic buying, itself induced by fear spread through the various forms of media (both social and traditional). Don’t get me wrong, Brexit, Covid, IR35, etc. certainly will have an impact but these pale into insignificance relative to the current unprecedented demand we’re seeing at petrol stations.

HRUX resident mathematician Chris Sewell has dusted off his queuing theory books once again to bring us another “stating the obvious but backed up by maths” point that the queues we’re seeing are as expected given the spike in demand.

Take a typical fuel station with 8 pumps and an average 6 minutes for a customer to complete their transaction. The graph below shows the average expected waiting times depending upon the number of customers arriving per hour.

Admittedly this doesn’t look too bad with average wait times not exceeding 10 minutes for 75 arrivals per hour. However once you hit 80 arrivals per hour the system can no longer service vehicles faster than the rate they arrive at, so the queue tends to infinity…which if you’ve driven past a fuel station in the last few days you’ll no doubt appreciate!

As the government are trying to make clear, once the panic buying stops the situation will go back to a stable position and we can then start to assess the real impact of the likes of IR35 and Brexit, etc, on our infrastructure.