The Ontario government will temporarily allow trucks hauling petroleum to work longer hours to help ease the current fuel shortage in the province.

One of the rules that have been waived is the regulation that forbids drivers and operators to drive after accumulating 70 hours on-duty in a seven-day period.

The measures will be in place until March 15, the Ontario Trucking Association says on its website.

Association president David Bradley welcomes the move.

"It should help ensure that the fuel haulers don't run out of hours before making their deliveries," he said. "We anticipate that there will be long line-ups at the fuel loading depots for the next while."

Fuel shortages follow a Feb. 15 fire at a Nanticoke, Ont. refinery, operated by Imperial Oil. The refinery supplies fuel to Esso stations.

When Esso outlets began to run dry in the Greater Toronto Area, demand increased at Petro-Canada and Shell stations, causing those two companies to struggle to keep up with the demand.

The result pushed gas prices to the $1-a-litre mark, sparking anger from some motorists who felt companies were gouging.

On Wednesday, Imperial Oil begun processing crude oil at the Nanticoke facility, but a full return is not expected until the middle of this month.

The company said that fuel demand was high before the blaze struck oil-processing machinery at the refinery. Imperial was also dealing with the fallout of an unrelated fire at a Sarnia, Ont. facility.

Other fuels suppliers have also warned of a shortage of diesel fuel in Ontario.

Premier Dalton McGuinty has urged motorists to remain calm until the fuel situation stabilizes.