As Diesel Prices Rise, So Does Fuel Theft
Summer is approaching and prices at the pump are already rising. Diesel and gasoline prices continued to climb the last week in May, with average retail pump prices increasing 2.4 cents and 7 cents per gallon, respectively, across this U.S., according to data tracked by the Energy information Administration (EIA). Historically, with any rise in fuel prices comes an upsurge in diesel fuel theft.
Diesel theft is an international problem, and recent news reports of fuel theft have appeared in from Australia, the UK and New Zealand as well as across the US. With prices set to remain high and even rise, it's time for truckers to set up appropriate defenses.
Diesel thieves require a truck with a big tank and siphoning equipment. Siphon pumps are readily available at big box hardware stores. There are reports of specially equipped pick-ups with professionally hidden fuel storage tanks and siphon pumps that run off of the engine. They just drop their hose into a fuel tank and let it run. When they are filled up they roll in their hose and drive away. There are also reports of thieves cutting fuel lines and drilling directly into fuel tanks too.
Fuel thieves typically assess opportunities during the daytime, and then return at night to steal fuel. Consequently, fleets should be on the lookout for loiterers and strangers straggling through lots. Drivers parked in truck stops should also be wary that fuel thieves often strike at night.
Who buys the stolen fuel? To drive this black market economy you need buyers. It's rumored that it's often truckers who buy stolen fuel. And since thieves have to keep sales in mind they often strike areas near highway diesel fueling stations and truck stops.
It's important to note that locking gas caps and anti-siphoning devices serve as deterrents. They are intended to discourage inexperienced thieves from committing crimes in public areas. However, they may encourage a determined thief to go under the vehicle to steal gas by cutting the fuel line or puncturing the tank. As a result, the owner could end up paying hundreds of dollars for repairs or fuel line/tank replacement.
Pro-Vigil, a security firm, offers these six tips to prevent diesel theft:
- Measure Your Fuel Having a complete inventory for a fleet's operation helps you know when theft occurs. If you haven't started counting your gallons of fuel as inventory then start today. Make sure that vehicle usage records line up with fuel usage. If not, you could have an employee who's siphoning off a little bit every day.
- Defensive Parking For trucks in the lot, park them so that fuel tanks are easily visible from the street. Install live surveillance cameras on your property if fuel theft is an issue. Park trucks so that their fuel tanks are inaccessible.
- Use Locking Fuel Caps and Anti-Siphoning Deterrents There are many after-market products that can make the fuel tanks on vehicles less vulnerable. Conduct a few web searches and you will turn up hundreds. These won't stop all thieves, but they can be a strong deterrent.
- Good Security Lighting Good security lighting doesn't send a glare out to observers from the street. Instead, it lights your defended areas like a stage so that passers by, neighbors and the police can see in easily. Park your vehicles with their fuel tanks clearly in the radius of your lighting. Alternately, be sure that your fuel pumps are well lit and easily visible from the road.
RSI Insurance Brokers offer the following fuel theft prevention tips...
Steps to Secure Your Premises:
- Fence the property.
- Keep the property visible from the street (e.g., keep shrubbery trimmed).
- Utilize security lighting.
- Use high-security padlocks on all access gates onto the property.
- Consider alarming the property.
- Consider installing closed circuit television (CCTV).
- If you have a recurring fuel theft problem, hire a security guard.
Steps to Secure Storage Tanks:
- Increase the visibility of storage tanks through location (i.e., make them visible from the street) and lighting.
- Consider installing security fencing around tanks and generators and alarming the area.
- Secure fuel nozzles and filler caps on storage tanks.
- Install anti-siphoning devices on the filler tubes of storage tanks.
- Shut off power to fuel pumps during non-operating hours.
- Establish and maintain a fuel inventory system (this will also help to deter employee theft).
Steps to Secure Vehicles:
- Utilize lockable fuel caps and anti-siphoning devices on fuel tanks.
- Whenever possible, park your vehicle in a visible, well-lit, high traffic area.
- If your vehicle has an alarm, set it before parking.
- Whenever you leave your vehicle, lock it.
- Don't leave your vehicle running and unattended, even for a moment.
- Park vehicles and equipment to prevent easy access to the fuel tank or cap.
- Install steel fuel lines that are more difficult to cut.
- Don't fill up the tank before you park in a truck stop for the night, fill it in the morning just before leaving.
- Don't leave the fuel pump unattended when filling your tank.
- Check the fuel gauge before leaving and upon returning to your vehicle to make sure your diesel hasn't been stolen; report any fuel theft immediately to local law enforcement.
While these methods are helpful, they are far from comprehensive, according to ENAiKOON, a fuel-monitoring provider. The most fail-proof method to protect your fleet is to actively monitor your diesel tanks through a telematics device, the company says.
The GPS telematics device works by integrating vehicles running values and location into a secure database to be monitored by a fleet manager. The device sends an alarm message when fuel level is dropping rapidly. Scamming by employees is easily recognizable by registering a time and location stamp each time the fuel level increases or decreases, objectively informing you of any incidences or discrepancies in fuel levels.