Fuel restriction scheme - frequently asked questions

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What is a liquid fuel emergency?

The liquid fuel industry manages disruptions in fuel supply chain on a regular basis without intervention from government. Disruptions may occur due to shipping delays or unplanned shutdowns of oil refineries and transport terminals. When these disruptions occur the industry manages fuel supply by redirecting shipping and fuel allocations. Most customers will not be aware that there has been a disruption as contracted supplies are still being delivered.

A liquid fuel emergency describes a disruption or likely disruption to the fuel supply chain that requires government intervention to ensure essential services such as police, ambulance, emergency services have their required allocation of liquid fuel to continue to deliver their services.

While disruptions in the fuel supply chain are quite common, liquid fuel emergencies are extremely rare. The Fuels Rationing Act 2019 has been developed to ensure the ACT Government is ready and able to manage liquid fuel supplies in the unlikely event of a liquid fuel emergency.

Liquid fuel emergencies may be managed by state and territory governments or, if the Commonwealth Government determines that a liquid fuel emergency is a National Liquid Fuel Emergency, it may enact Commonwealth legislation to manage the emergency.

I am a member of the public. How will I know if fuel restrictions are in place?

To enact a fuel restriction, the Minister will make a declaration that a fuel restriction, from the Fuel Restriction Scheme is in force. The ACT Government will ensure the public is notified of the fuel restrictions by broadcasting notices on television or radio, and by publishing a notification in a newspaper or on the ACT Government website.

This declaration will include the following details:

  • Which fuel restrictions are in force
  • The duration that the fuel restrictions will apply for (the maximum duration that a Minister can declare fuel restrictions in force for is three months. The Minister may make a further declaration to extend fuel restrictions.)
  • Which type or types of fuel the fuel restrictions apply to (declared fuel types)
  • The entities that the Minister has specified are exempt from fuel restrictions.

Fuel stations will be required to display signage to notify customers that fuel restrictions are in place.

I am a service attendant at a fuel station. How will I know if someone is exempt from fuel restrictions?

At the time that the Minister makes a declaration that Stage 2 Fuel Restrictions are in place, the Minister will specify details of any exempt entities. All fuel selling businesses in the ACT will be notified of the fuel restriction in writing. This notification will include details of the fuel restrictions including the fuel types to which the restrictions apply (declared fuels), the limit amounts of declared fuels, and the entities that are exempt from fuel restrictions. Fuel selling businesses will be provided with examples of identification cards for personnel of exempt entities and examples of relevant vehicle and registration plates to support fuel attendants to identify exempt Essential Users.

Essential Users that are exempt from fuel restrictions must, when purchasing fuel:

  • provide photo identification specific to the exempt essential user entity and
  • be driving a clearly identifiable vehicle or driving a vehicle with ACT Government registration plates or Taxi registration plates.

Which fuels are affected by the Fuels Rationing Act 2019 and the Fuel Restriction Scheme?

The Fuels Rationing Act 2019 provides the Minister power to implement fuel restrictions from an approved Fuel Restriction Scheme. The definition of fuel in the Act is:

  1. petroleum or
  2. a petroleum product or
  3. a petrochemical or
  4. any other liquid fuel manufactured for use in an internal combustion engine (e.g. biodiesel, ethanol fuel and hydrogen-based fuel) or
  5. anything else prescribed by regulation.

Fuel restrictions may be enforced for any or all of the above fuel types. If or when the Minister declares that fuel restrictions are in force, the Minister will specify which fuel restrictions are in force and the types of fuels that are subject to fuel restrictions (declared fuels). This information will be included in ACT Government communications.

I need to drive to work and to pick up my children from day-care/school. How can I do this when fuel restrictions are in place?

Fuel restrictions will only be implemented when the Minister considers that they are necessary to ensure adequate fuel supply for essential services such as police, ambulance, state emergency services and public transport. It is important to recognise that a declaration of a fuel restriction is an emergency event. When fuel restrictions are in place it may be necessary for community to change their behaviour to reduce fuel consumption so essential services can continue to operate.

When fuel restrictions are in place (other than in the most extreme of emergency situations) the community will still be able to access a restricted amount of declared fuels per vehicle per day. Public transport and taxi services will continue to operate throughout a liquid fuel emergency. Some community members may find that they need to adjust their routines to comply with fuel restrictions. This may include catching public transport, carpooling, walking or riding and working from home where possible.

Employers are encouraged to allow more flexible working arrangements for their employees in the event of fuel restrictions to allow for potential changes in routine. While it is likely that fuel restrictions may inconvenience or have adverse impacts on some members of the community, the ACT Government's main priority in a liquid fuel emergency will be ensuring that essential services can continue to function.

How much fuel will I be entitled to in a fuel restriction?

Stage 2 fuel restrictions may include a mandatory limit on the amount of fuel that can be purchased per vehicle per day. The limit will most likely be a dollar value amount. The limit value will be determined by the Minister in response to the circumstances of the liquid fuel emergency. The Minister will specify the value limit, and the type of fuels to which the restrictions apply (declared fuel types), in the fuel restriction declaration. This information will be included in ACT Government notifications on television or radio and in the newspaper or on the ACT Government website.

In the event of a liquid fuel emergency it is likely that the price of fuel will increase significantly. This will act as a natural deterrent for excess fuel consumption during a liquid fuel emergency event, which will further support conservation of fuel for essential services.

If there is a limit on the petrol sales, can I purchase petrol multiple times in a day?

Limits on petrol sales will apply to the amount of fuel a person can purchase per vehicle per day.

Example: The Minister has declared that Stage 2 fuel restrictions are in force. The fuel restriction declaration included a $20 value limit on unleaded petrol sales. Sally may purchase $20 worth of unleaded petrol for her personal vehicle on her way to work. Sally can also purchase $20 of unleaded petrol for her second vehicle in the same day. Sally may purchase a further $20 per vehicle the next day.

Can I purchase the maximum amount of petrol from multiple service stations on the same day?

Dollar value limits on the sale and purchase of a declared fuel apply to each vehicle per day regardless of which fuel station the declared fuel is purchased from. Fuel consumers must not purchase the maximum amount of declared fuel from multiple fuel sale sites on the same day, or they will be in breach of a fuel restriction which is an offence under the Fuels Rationing Act 2019.

Example: The Minister has declared that Stage 2 fuel restrictions are in force. The declaration included a $30.00 limit on diesel sales per vehicle per day. If Sam purchases $30.00 of diesel for his personal car at one service station, he cannot purchase any more diesel for that car again on that day.

The next day Sam purchases $15 of diesel for his personal car in the morning. Sam is then allowed to purchase up to $15.00 more diesel for his personal car later that day. Sam may not save the remaining allocation of diesel and buy $45 worth of diesel tomorrow.

What happens if I don't comply with fuel restrictions?

If you don't comply with fuel restrictions you may be fined. The Fuels Rationing Act 2019 includes strict liability offences to ensure fuel restrictions are observed. Strict liability offences mean that there is no requirement for a prosecution to establish a fault element, such as intention, knowledge, recklessness or negligence. This is similar to driving offences such as speeding.

The Fuels Rationing Act 2019 refers to inspectors, who are they, and what powers do they have?

Under the Fuels Rationing Act 2019 an inspector is a police officer or a Government official who has been appointed as an inspector by the Director-General of the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate. The Director-General must give each inspector an identity card that states the person’s name and appointment as an inspector, and shows:

  1. a recent photograph of the person and
  2. the date of issue of the card and
  3. the date of expiry of the card.

Inspectors will have the power to monitor fuel supplies and investigate breaches or potential breaches of the Fuels Rationing Act 2019 within the powers specified in the Act.

If an inspector exercises a power under the Fuels Rationing Act 2019, the inspector must first show their inspector's identity card.

What are eco-driving measures?

Eco-driving is easy to incorporate into the way you drive and can save you fuel costs. Driving more slowly and checking your tyre pressure is the easiest way to cut your petrol bill.

Eco driving measures include:

  • Reduce driving speed. A car traveling at 100 kilometres per hour (kph) can use 10% more fuel for the same distance than one cruising at 90kph. As a general rule, lower speed and more gradual acceleration will consume less fuel.
  • Check and maintain the correct tyre pressure. This may improve your fuel consumption by up to 2%. It's safer, too.
  • Don’t carry unnecessary weight. Remove unnecessary items such as sports equipment from your vehicle. The less it weighs, the less fuel your vehicle will use. The fuel consumption of a mid-size car increases by about 1% for every 25 kilograms of weight it carries.
  • Remove roof racks or bicycle racks. Streamline your vehicle by taking off the racks when you’re not using them. Aerodynamic drag can increase fuel consumption by as much as 20% on the highway.
  • Use air conditioning sparingly. Air conditioning can increase a vehicle’s fuel consumption by as much as 20%. Open the windows when you’re driving in the city and use the flow-through ventilation system with the windows up on the highway. If you do use air conditioning, use the re-circulate option.

What is the difference between the Fuels Rationing Act 2019 and the Liquid Fuel Emergency Act 1984 (Cwlth)? Which one is more important?

The Fuels Rationing Act 2019 is ACT-specific legislation. The powers from this Act are primarily for the management of a localised liquid fuel emergency managed by the ACT Government. A localised liquid fuel emergency may include a fuel shortage which affects multiple states and territories such as NSW and ACT that is not escalated to a National Liquid Fuel Emergency.

Each state and territory government has its own legislation in place to manage liquid fuel emergencies. State, territory and Commonwealth governments have all agreed to work together to respond to liquid fuel emergencies with harmonised response measures.

The Liquid Fuel Emergency Act 1984 (Cwlth) is Commonwealth legislation that provides powers to the Commonwealth Minister to respond to a National Liquid Fuel Emergency. If the Commonwealth Minister declares a National Liquid Fuel Emergency, the powers under the Liquid Fuel Emergency Act 1984 (Cwlth) can be implemented at the same time that state and territory emergency liquid fuel legislation is in force. Where there are differences in legislation, the Liquid Fuel Emergency Act 1984 (Cwlth) may override state and territory legislation. This is why, in the event of a National Liquid Fuel Emergency, the Commonwealth may not recognise Class B Essential Users from the ACT Fuel Restriction Scheme as being exempt from fuel restrictions; and why it is crucial that Class B Essential Users make all efforts to ensure that they can continue to function with a restricted fuel supply.

Why does the Fuel Restriction Scheme include Class B Essential Users when the Liquid Fuel Emergency Act 1984 (Cwlth)does not reference them?

The Fuels Rationing Act 2019 has been developed to support the ACT Government to respond to liquid fuel emergencies in the ACT. The ACT Government recognises the crucial role that entities in the Class B Essential User list undertake in maintaining essential services such as electricity, gas and water supply to the ACT. While Class B Essential Users require liquid fuel to maintain their services, it is most likely that these users will be able to continue their service delivery with a restricted fuel supply. The Fuel Restriction Scheme allows the Minister to consider the specific circumstances of a liquid fuel emergency when deciding whether to exempt one or more entities from the Class B Essential User list from fuel restrictions.

In the event the Commonwealth Minister declares a National Liquid Fuel Emergency, the Commonwealth Minister may enact powers from the Liquid Fuel Emergency Act 1984 (Cwlth) simultaneously to state and territory governments enacting their own liquid fuel emergency legislation. The Commonwealth Government may delegate its powers to state and territory governments to enforce its legislation. Where there are differences between the state and territory legislation and Commonwealth legislation, the Commonwealth legislation may override state and territory legislation.

The Liquid Fuel Emergency Act 1984 (Cwlth) and its supporting legislation, the Liquid Fuel Emergency (Activities - Essential Users) Determination 2019 (Cwlth), specifies that all entities describe in the Class A Essential Users list in the ACT Fuel Restriction Scheme may be treated separately in a National Liquid Fuel Emergency.

Class B Essential Users are not currently recognised in Liquid Fuel Emergency Act 1984 (Cwlth). Class B Essential Users have been included in the ACT Fuel Restriction Scheme to allow the Minister power, if necessary, to exempt these entities from fuel restrictions in a localised liquid fuel emergency. As Class B Essential User entities are not recognised in Commonwealth legislation, it is important that these entities make every effort through contingency planning to prepare for potential fuel shortages.

How can I prepare my business or organisation for potential fuel restrictions?

It is in the interests of liquid fuel users to understand their own fuel use and to consider how they would manage the impacts of a reduction of fuel supply. One way to do this is to develop and maintain a business continuity plan. Fuel users are encouraged to consider the following when developing their business continuity plan:

  • Identify current fuel supply arrangements and assess how your organisation would manage a reduction of 10%, 30% or 50% to normal fuel supply for 30 days. The assessment should include a break down by fuel type.
  • Identify internal priorities for fuel use and consider how the business will continue to deliver goods and services (particularly essential ones) with a lower level of fuel supply. This will likely involve a different mode of business operation as compared to business as usual (BAU).
  • Business activities should be categorised from highest to lowest priority and fuel use for each activity needs to be understood, quantified and monitored (including differences in fuel use between BAU and peak or emergency times, the impact of seasonal factors etc).
  • Non-essential activities such as maintenance should be cancelled or deferred during times of supply shortage or rationing.
  • Business continuity plans for publicly funded organisations should not rely on an increased budget to cover additional fuel costs without good reason. This is because similar assistance is not available to the broader community who may be feeling the impact of significantly increased fuel prices.
  • Business continuity plans should take into account internal transport movements, both for employees and goods and services, along with vehicle fleet issues. For example, determining how critical staff will get to and from work. Business or agency plans may wish to consider the provision of its own transport or carpooling arrangements.
  • As part of business continuity planning, businesses should consider the efficiency of current fuel use and management, and the fuel efficiency of current equipment and vehicles deployed by the business. This will not only reduce overall fuel use to the business (saving money) but assist in managing any fuel supply disruption.

Are ride-share vehicles like Uber exempt from fuel restrictions? Why?

Ride share services such as Uber are not considered a taxi service for the purposes of the Fuel Restriction Scheme, and therefore are not exempt from fuel restrictions. There are two reasons why ride-share vehicles are not exempt.

Firstly, for fuel restrictions to be effective they need to be able to be easily administered. Exempt vehicles must be readily identifiable. Ride share vehicles are not clearly identifiable. Secondly, rideshare vehicles are primarily private vehicles. It cannot be easily discerned whether a ride-share vehicle is being operated in a private capacity or as a ride-share.