People living in rural communities are becoming increasingly dependent on their motor cars as local authorities continue to reduce their support for public transport. But retail fuelling facilities serving these communities are also becoming fewer and further away, as market pressures are forcing the smaller service stations to close.

One solution set up by PL Clements & Son, a farming business based in South Scarle, Newark, is the provision of a resale approved, community fuelling point alongside its post office in Church Lane.

“For many years we have provided Autogas, as an alternative for petrol, ” explains the farm proprietor, Stephen Clements. “Now that cars and larger 4X4 vehicles fitted with diesel engines have become increasingly popular, there are fewer gas conversions and demand has diminished.”

“We are already purchasing red diesel for our agricultural (off-road) machines so whilst there was no overriding case for setting up a ‘road’ diesel facility, it does allow us greater flexibility. We also felt that this would be a useful convenience to our neighbours, some of whom had previously come to us for Autogas.

Stephen continues. “Several people had approached us about providing a similar service for road diesel, so in effect, we are also responding to the requirement from within our local community.”

After registering for a monthly billing account, customers are supplied with a ‘smart’ key which enables them to access the diesel pump dispenser, as and whenever they wish to draw fuel. The pump works on a self-serve basis and fuel is available anytime day or night. Unregistered customers need to check in advance to ensure that there is someone available to serve them.

“We are not trying to compete with retail service stations by catering for passing trade and commercial vehicles,” adds Stephen.

“Other customers include fishing enthusiasts and we have had some tourists with motorhomes, who call in for gas supplies. They are usually pleasantly surprised to discover that they can also top up their vehicles.”

The diesel dispenser incorporates an electronic monitoring unit which automatically records the amount of fuel drawn, together with time and date. As well as updating the stock records, the information is used to generate a monthly report for each of the customer’s key accounts.

Supplied by MIS Fuel Monitoring of Wolverhampton, the Merridale resale approved fuelling system uses proven technology which is in daily use by emergency services, municipal authorities and other commercial road transport fleet operators.

“Indeed the Merridale pump was installed by the same engineer who put in the monitoring unit on the Autogas dispenser. And this set up has provided reliable service for over 14 years, so we have no worries about continuity or the resilience of this additional service,” says Stephen Clement.

Stephen’s wife Anita, who handles the administration, concludes by saying: “The reports are very easy to use and Merridale provides an excellent Help Desk service. This included initial training during the set up stage – as we were creating new customer accounts. In operation the system downloads automatically overnight. We can view the current tank stock status at any time over an internet browser page.