Leap Year Blamed For Glitch at New Zealand Gas Pumps

Like clockwork, leap years roll around every four years. But many companies are never quite prepared for it, with every Feb. 29 marred by glitches and malfunctions.

Computers have shut down, satellite navigation devices have failed and airport conveyor belts have refused to move luggage onto planes. This year, dozens of gas stations across New Zealand malfunctioned on Thursday, with car and truck drivers reporting problems filling up in the early hours of the morning.

“Motorists have been turning up and unable to get fuel,” said Julien Leys, a spokesman for Gull New Zealand, one of the companies whose gas pumps malfunctioned. “It’s been incredibly frustrating for our customers.”

Drivers were unable to pay for their fuel because the software used by payment terminals at gas pumps “couldn’t calibrate itself with the fact that this is the 29th of February,” he said.

The issue affected all unattended gas pumps across the country because all the fuel companies in New Zealand use one technology provider, Invenco, Mr. Leys said. Customers were able to fill up at manned service stations.

Z Energy and Allied Petroleum, two other fuel companies, confirmed outages at their stations.

Simeon Brown, New Zealand’s transportation minister, weighed in, telling the local news outlet RNZ that it was frustrating that the system failed to account for Feb. 29. “Leap years come around every four years and are nothing new,” he said.

“We clearly know about leap years,” said John Scott, the chief executive of Invenco. “We’ve been dealing with them for the last 20 to 30 years.”

The issue was a one-time occurrence caused by a software update made during the coronavirus pandemic, he said, adding that it had been fully resolved by about 7 p.m. local time. It was specific to New Zealand and would not affect the company’s payment terminals and technology in other countries, he said. Invenco does business in more than 100 other countries, according to the company’s website.

Most gas stations in New Zealand are full-service, but unattended pumps are common in rural areas and are vital for truck drivers needing fuel in remote locations or during off hours.

Barry Raymond, the operations manager of Smith Transport in Auckland, said that he discovered the problem around 3 a.m., when the company’s truck drivers started calling him about being unable to find working gas pumps.

“It’s created a bit of problem for the boys,” he said, adding that the biggest disruption had been in the early hours of the morning, when many full-service gas stations hadn’t yet opened for the day. Some of the truckers had to visit three different gas stations before finding one where they could fill up, he said.