DRIVERS are feeling the pinch at the petrol bowser as Newcastle residents grapple with the rising cost of living.
Services station workers told the Newcastle Herald they've noticed people are struggling and changing their habits to cut spending.
A customer service worker at an Adamstown business and said people often asked when prices would drop.
"I have to meet a lot of people, and most of them are not happy," she said.
"It's really a very hard time."
She said people coming in to pay for fuel had told her about their rent, groceries, and mortgages becoming more expensive, with petrol and diesel prices fuelling the burden.
A fuel station operator in the Birmingham Gardens area told the Herald people understood prices were not the business's fault.
"I think so many people are unhappy with it because it's too much, it shouldn't be this much," he said.
"In these things, they are helpless themselves, it's not in their hands and it's not in our hands either."
The operator said he believed instances of people filling up and driving off without paying didn't have anything to do with the cost of fuel.
"It's always been there, it's not something just because of fuel prices," he said.
"The good people, if the fuel is expensive, they will put in less fuel but they will still pay for it."
It comes as interest rates continue to rise, with another hike just last week.
The Reserve Bank has been fighting inflation with 13 cash rate increases, and the official cash rate is now sitting at 4.35 per cent.
An NRMA spokesman told the Herald fuel prices in Newcastle and on the Central Coast fluctuated in a "price cycle".
He said regular unleaded petrol had gone up 10.4 cents per litre in Newcastle in the past month.
The average price of regular unleaded petrol in the area was just less than $2.05 on Monday, but the spokesman said it should eventually fall to about $1.80.
Price cycles have been around for close to two decades, but Newcastle only started following a cycle in the past year or two, the spokesman said.
It means prices go up fast and down slowly.
"That's one of the frustrations for people - is when to fill up," he said.
He encouraged people to research fuel costs before heading to the bowser.
"Don't just guess ... there's always some bargains to be found in these areas," he said.
The NSW government has a fuel check app, and so does the NRMA.
The cheapest and most expensive regular unleaded fuel in the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie areas had a difference of almost 50 cents per litre on Tuesday, according to Fuel Check NSW.
NSW Police issued a warning for anyone tempted to steal petrol.
"Times are financially tough for many people; however, NSW Police remind the community that failing to pay for fuel is an offence that police take seriously," a spokesperson said.
They said staff should be educated on reporting "drive-off" incidents and that police provided advice to service stations.
"These recommendations include ensuring a line of sight between staff and the bowser forecourt, as well as installing good lighting and CCTV," the spokesperson said.
Officers also conduct proactive operations in and around petrol outlets, the NSW Police spokesperson said.
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