Fuel Theft & Prevention
FUEL THEFT GLOBALLY
Fuel theft is happening along its whole life-cycle at a different scale. Fuel is an universal currency, which is difficult to track and very easy to use or sell. You can read about "Black market" of oil and fuel here.
FUEL THEFT AROUND YOU
After being delivered to fuel stations, fuel is stolen in many different ways. Quantities stolen are often small but the number of cases is huge. Fuel stations, cars, trucks, generators - everything is vulnerable to fuel theft.
HOW IT HAPPENS
Fuel theft happens everywhere, even in highly developed countries and in many cases, it goes unnoticed or is simply unreported.
Cars are filled and driven away without a payment being made, personal containers are filled when a company vehicle is billed on a fuel card, fuel may be siphoned from any vehicle while nobody is looking or takes the whole tank with you.
Siphoning fuel can be done either by an opportunistic thief, organised gang (external theft) or by a driver himself (internal theft) - from a company's truck or van for a personal vehicle.
Even though external theft is rarer than internal theft, it is usually much more damaging for the vehicle and for the business relying on it. Losses from such a theft will often include a broken fuel cap, damaged sender unit or even a fuel tank, spilled fuel and cost of sorting it out, and also potentially huge problems with delivery schedule, replacement vehicle, taking care of the load etc.
Internal theft, on the other hand is less harmful, but it can happen constantly on a smaller scale and can significantly increase a company's fuel costs. In this case, a person with access to the vehicle (usually the driver) siphons a relatively small amount of fuel from the fuel tank on a regular basis and this can go unnoticed for years. The vehicle's fuel consumption of the vehicle will be higher than it should be, but as many other factors, are at play here it is almost impossible to track down the thief.
HOW TO PROTECT YOUR FUEL TANK
There are a number of different means to protect fuel inside your vehicle. They can be split into teo main groups:
Proactive measures will help you to prevent fuel theft;
Reactive measures can help you to identify the thief and possibly recover stolen fuel.
The main proactive measures are listed below:
Park your vehicle in a secure parking area, well lit and with CCTV cameras;
Educate drivers about fuel theft and train them to park defensively;
Re-fuel just before the journey; do not leave a vehicle with a full tank overnight;
Use a locking fuel cap;
Use a fuel tank alarm;
Use an anti-siphon device - a mechanical device obstructing access to a fuel tank, but allowing fuel inside a tank;
Use protective covers and locks for sender unit, drain plug and connectors along fuel lines.
The main reactive measures are:
Use an anti-siphon device - a mechanical device preventing access to a fuel tank for siphoning, but allowing high speed fuel filling into tank;
Use a fuel monitoring system which tracks vehicle position, fuel cap opening and fuel level;
Use a separate "smart" fuel cap, which can send a message when it is open;
Conduct regular inspections of the vehicle fuel system to spot any attempts to tamper with it;
Implement a reporting system (internal and external), including reporting suspicious behaviour, fuel theft and fuel theft attempts.
ANALYSIS OF THE FUEL PROTECTION PRODUCTS
Protective systems and devices have differing costs and levels of efficiency:
Locking fuel cap is the basic, cheapest and, unfortunately, the least efficient device. It can deter some opportunistic thieves, but it breaks quite easily and also, in the case of internal theft, the driver has the keys anyway...
Fuel tank alarm is very efficient for an unprepared thief, but , again, it can be useless in the case of internal theft or a well-armed gang;
Fuel anti-siphon device is a simple and efficient mechanical protection against both internal and external fuel theft. A proper anti-siphon will easily let the fuel into the tank, but will not let it out. To understand its features and choose the one that really works, please read our review of anti-siphons.
Fuel cap protector is usually a strong fuel cap cover with a padlock. Efficient for external theft only and sometimes requires drilling a fuel tank to install it.
Fuel monitoring system is relatively expensive and sophisticated. It might be able to trace fuel cap opening and closing, fuel coming in and out of a fuel tank, and vehicle position on the map, sending as well as alert messages and using all this data in a very clever way. Analysing the data can improve fleet efficiency and support implementation of the best practices among drivers. It is very useful to investigate fuel theft, but it will not prevent fuel theft from happening. Also it requires considerable amount time and effort for processing the data coming from the trucks and analysing it.
"Smart" fuel cap can be considered a simple fuel monitoring system with essential functions only.
Sender unit cover, drain plug protection etc. are additional protection only - they complement fuel tank neck protection and work best against internal theft when there is full access to the vehicle and some free time in hand.
WHICH ONE IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
An individual truck owner/driver aims to protect his fuel only from external fuel theft. The best protection, in this case, would be a combination of preventive security measures - a locking fuel cap with an anti-siphon device to protect the main and easiest point of fuel access; secure parking (usually paid for) or at least defensive parking. Also, consider installing a fuel tank alarm and protecting a sender unit and drain plug.
A fleet should be prepared for both external and internal fuel theft and, along with strong preventive protection, should use a reactive measures system, which will help to identify the weak spots in fuel security and patch them to avoid any future theft. Thus for the fleet, the most efficient set of measures would be the same as for an individual truck owner, plus a high security level of their premises and the implementation
of regular inspections of vehicle fuel systems, together with prompt reporting of any suspicious activity. Also, consider intradusing a fuel monitoring system on each fuel tank.
In both cases, sensible parking and simple protection devices, such as locking fuel caps and anti-siphons will divert a fuel thief in the majority of cases. For extra safety, there are other options available on the market.