Drivers trying to squeeze the last kilometre from an empty fuel tank now face the prospect of a hefty fine if they run out of petrol on Auckland's motorways.

Acting on a request from the police, the Transport Agency is proposing a bylaw that would make it an offence to run out of fuel anywhere on the 72.7km network.

Police want the deterrent because of the number of stranded vehicles blocking lanes and endangering other motorists.

During a three-week period in July last year, 148 vehicles - including three trucks - ran out of fuel on Auckland motorways.

The agency said yesterday it was seeking views on the feasibility of a bylaw, but no decision would be made without considering the opinions of local authorities, emergency services, trucking organisations and the Automobile Association.

The old Auckland Harbour Bridge Authority had a bylaw making it an offence to run out of fuel on the bridge. But that lapsed when the authority was dissolved in 1984.

Inspector Dave Walker of the harbour bridge and motorways unit said police wanted a law similar to the one setting a $250 fine for anyone walking on city motorways.

Police attended thousands of stoppages on motorways caused by "mechanical failure, or punctures, or running out of fuel", he said.

Some drivers ran out of fuel in places such as the harbour bridge, the Newmarket Viaduct and the Victoria Park flyover.

"Our motorway patrol cars have pushbars on them to clear disabled vehicles, because our authority is to clear lanes," Mr Walker said.

"But there are places where there are no stopping shoulders and so cars are stopping in a live lane and putting other people at risk.

"We are on call 24 hours a day, we will attend these incidents and if we can prove a person was driving on an empty tank, they will face a heavy penalty."

Automobile Association road service manager John Healy said members running out of fuel on motorways were given top priority in rescue calls because of public safety in high-density traffic.

But in normal traffic it took 10 to 15 minutes for service vehicles to reach stranded motorists and in heavy traffic it could take 30 minutes.

Mr Healy said service vehicles now carried two canisters of emergency petrol "because one is not enough".

The bylaw idea has not been well received by most local bodies.

Rodney District's deputy mayor, John Kirikiri, dismissed the proposal as "money-grabbing by the authorities".

North Shore Mayor Andrew Williams said it would be "another pointless bureaucratic exercise and another thing for the police to enforce".

"I would think the average person would just not have observed where the fuel gauge was at."

Manukau City councillor Colleen Brown said a bylaw would hit those who struggled with the cost of running a car after paying for a warrant of fitness and registration. "Go to petrol stations and see, People are putting in $10 worth or $20 ... For some, petrol in the car is a big ask."

Auckland City Council transport chairman Ken Baguley said he would prefer police to give higher priority to supporting the city's need for more red-light cameras.

Che Bartle, of Ace Heavy Haulage, said 80 per cent of truck and bus breakdowns he was called to on the steep uphill lanes of the harbour bridge were vehicles out of fuel.

* The problem

Auckland's motorway network:

Covers: 72.7 km.
Vehicles running out of petrol: 148 in 3 weeks (in July last year).
Time to clear a vehicle from a lane: 30 to 60 minutes.