POLICE were called to clear traffic jams at filling stations as a petrol panic swept Wearside.
Officers were called to Morrisons, in Seaburn, and Sainsbury’s, at The Galleries, Washington, as fears of shortages fuelled long queues.
Lines of vehicles waiting to fill up yesterday were also reported at stations in Ryhope Road, Silksworth Lane, Wessington Way and Leechmere, in Sunderland, as well as Asda, in Boldon.
The panic-buying came as up to 2,000 fuel tanker drivers threatened to halt deliveries, in protest at pay and conditions.
Unite union members supply petrol and diesel to 90 per cent of the UK’s forecourts, leading to fears stocks could run dry within 48 hours of any fuel strike.
However, no date has been announced yet for a walkout, and conciliation service Acas hopes talks between employers and unions will take place next week.
Haulage companies were to meet Energy Secretary Edward Davey today to discuss any help they may be able to offer if thel tanker drivers do go on strike.
Today, there were no reports of serious local shortages.
Meanwhile, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service has warned drivers not to hoard petrol in jerrycans.
Group manager Phil Clark, from Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said: “While we would not recommend the storage of fuel by householders, if members of the public are going to store petrol, they need to make sure that the containers they are using are correctly designed and are fit for purpose.
“Certain plastics are unsuitable, as they will react with the petrol and could cause leaks.
“Furthermore, it should be labelled as flammable liquid, stored away from the house in either a shed or a garage, well away from people and anywhere it might be close to a naked flame, heat source or other source of ignition.
“There are maximum quantities of fuel that people can store in containers.
“These are metal containers of 10 litres and plastic containers of five litres and people should have no more than two of each.”
Motoring organisations are advising drivers to stay calm.
The AA cautioned against “turning a rumour into a crisis,” as it emerged the Prime Minister convened a cross-Government meeting to discuss contingency measures.
“It’s totally inappropriate for people to panic-buy,” said AA president Edmund King.
“No strikes have yet been announced and there is enough fuel out there as long as people do not fill up unnecessarily.
“Emergency services have contingency plans in place all the time in any case.
“That includes the AA as we have to ensure we can get our patrols out there.
“It’s vital that people do not turn a rumour into a crisis.
“Drivers should follow their normal buying patterns.”
Oil company Esso, which has outlets in Durham Road, Barnes, and in Stockton Road, Seaham, also advised drivers to buy fuel as normal.
A spokeswoman said: “At this stage no strike dates have been called and the potential remains for a resolution to the matter.
“In the event of a strike, Esso will do all it can to maximise fuel supplies to its service stations and other customers, working with the Government and Hoyer, our fuel distributors.
“We would ask motorists to stick to their normal buying patterns.”
A spokeswoman for Northumbria Police confirmed officers were called to two incidents on Wearside.
“At 10am, police were asked to attend a petrol station at Whitburn Road, Sunderland, to assist with traffic management,” she said. “At 10.12am, police received a similar request from a petrol station at The Galleries, in Washington.”