Story by Ian Baker
Independent fuel retailer APCO is likely to push ahead with its rollout of driveway service through the fuelService app, pending the successful outcome of a trial it has begun at three petrol stations.
The intent of the trial was not to test interest from wheelchair users in using the app so much as to confirm that APCO staff could deliver the service, Marketing Manager Andrew Augustine told AQA late last month.
The app, adopted widely by fuel outlets in Britain and some other countries but never before in Australia, allows wheelchair users to make appointments at participating service stations for having their cars refuelled by an attendant.
It alerts checkout staff to expect your arrival, and tells them which pump you’ve parked at. After a staff member has filled your tank for you, you can pay from your car.
APCO is testing the app at its Newcombe, Grovedale and North Geelong service stations in the Geelong region.
It was likely to extend its availability over the next three months to the other 23 fuel outlets it operates in Victoria and NSW, Mr Augustine said.
He said that from a marketing perspective, adopting the app fitted well with APCO’s outlook as a 50-year-old, family owned company that had focused on serving local communities.
“One of our taglines is We’ve Got You!,” Mr Augustine said.
“So this service certainly fits with the APCO brand.
“It’s a key way for us to be able to help the disabled community.”
“It’s not an expensive exercise to roll out. The cost is being funded by the APCO Foundation.”
The app is free for users but APCO pays a fee of 100 UK pounds a year – currently about $190 – per participating service station.
The APCO Foundation raises money for causes it supports in nearby communities. Mr Augustine, a director, proposed that it support fuelService after he was contacted by Victor Bibby, who has been campaigning to have the app adopted in Australia.
Foundation Chair Sharon Gleeson said the idea had met easy acceptance at a meeting of directors.
“There wasn’t even a discussion, really,” she said. “Everybody just went: Great!
“A lot of the people on our Board are former retail partners with APCO. We’ve all worked in stores in our local communities. And we’ve helped local people who needed help. This was a way to make their lives easier.
“It also reaches out to a broader part of the community. When people are travelling, they can know that they will have this service available to them – it’s not just for local people who staff may have got to know.
“It gives people more independence. I think that’s really important.”
The fuelService app was developed and launched about 2019 by Niall El-Assaad, a UK resident who lives with spinal cord injury.
You can download it from Google Play or Apple’s App Store, or by visiting www.fuelservice.org. Users must register their phone number and email address, as a means of controlling inappropriate use.
When you open the app you can search for participating businesses. Now for the first time, it will show three service stations in Australia – and within a few months it’s likely you’ll see many more.
- October 21, 2021