Many filling stations will have to close in coming weeks as a collapse in demand makes businesses unviable.
The Petrol Retailers Association has warned rural fuel stations are particularly at risk.
Demand for petrol is down 75 percent, while diesel is down 71 percent as motorists heed government warnings to stay at home.
This is having a severe impact on filling station businesses, says the PRA, where sales volumes have plunged.
The association is now warning motorists in rural areas to check their local filling station is open before they travel to buy fuel.
“To help freight move and help key workers travel safely and independently through this period of crisis, petrol filling stations must remain open,” said PRA chairman Brian Madderson.
“But this is proving to be a challenge for many.”
The collapse in oil prices is not helping independent filling stations, either: a PRA survey suggests six in 10 have full storage tanks, purchased weeks earlier when oil prices were much higher.
“Fuel retailers are having to maintain pump prices at previous levels to avoid suffering significant losses,” said Mr Madderson.
“When the COVID-19 restrictions and high sales volumes return, then we expect to see reductions in retail fuel prices.”
He has asked the government to give smaller fuel retailers the same 60-day credit terms as those enjoyed by supermarkets.