Motorists faced more misery yesterday as the main oil companies followed BP's lead in raising petrol prices by 4c a litre - their second increase in less than a week.
But truck operators and other diesel users gained a reprieve after Shell, Caltex and Mobil decided against copying a 3c increase levied on that fuel at BP's pumps on Wednesday night.
Industry minnow Gull, meanwhile, defied all the major suppliers by refraining from moving on petrol, although it raised its diesel price yesterday morning in line with that of Shell, Caltex and Mobil.
Gull spokesman Ulrik Olsen said his company would keep selling 91-octane petrol for 170.9c a litre before making an assessment this morning of the price it pays for refined fuel from Singapore.
All the larger oil companies apart from BP were selling that grade of petrol last night for 174.9c, and 95-octane for 179.9c, after lifting their prices by 8c a litre since Friday.
But diesel was retailing for 125.9c at most pumps apart from BP's, which were charging 128.9c. Mr Olsen said the other companies had raised their diesel prices by 5c a litre in various stages since Friday, but Gull waited until yesterday morning before following them to 125.9c.
Automobile Association spokesman Mike Noon expressed disappointment that petrol prices had risen so soon after a "spike" on the global market which saw US crude oil leaping to US$101.32c a barrel on Wednesday.
That was close to an all-time inflation-adjusted high of $101.70c in April 1980, after the Iranian revolution exacerbated a supply squeeze. "I think we saw some spiking in the crude price but it has now pulled back," Mr Noon said, in reference to an ease-back in the barrel price yesterday to US$98.82c.
BP spokeswoman Greta Shirley said the latest rises at the pump followed increases in import cost rises totalling 7.7 per cent since the beginning of this month.
That compared with a net increase in petrol pump prices of 2.3 per cent.
She said she was unable to speculate on the decision of the other companies not to follow BP's lead on diesel.