Farming News - Help prevent fuel theft with these useful tips

Help prevent fuel theft with these useful tips

10 Jan 2018
Frontdesk / Renewables

Statistics from the recent NFU Mutual Rural Crime Report have revealed that, of all the items available on a farm, fuel was the eighth most likely thing to be targeted by criminals. Consequently, this means that thieves stand a higher chance of stealing these liquids instead of horses and tractors.

In fact, between January 2013 and December 2014, the organisation estimated that fuel theft cost British farms around £1.4m. Furthermore, those based in the east of England were worst hit by these crimes.

Fuel thieves traditionally target farms during the longer winter nights as the extended cover of darkness gives them more opportunities to get away with the theft unnoticed. These criminals often use just a basic tube to siphon away the fuel but more sophisticated apparatuses – such as pumping systems – have been reported by police.

Fortunately, there are several measures which farmers can use to minimise their chances of suffering the effects of fuel theft. After all, with some tanks costing thousands of pounds to refill, a successful criminal could put their victims into financial hardship.

Keep it locked

This should be common sense but locking down a tank with a secure cap or hardened hoses is always worth doing. However, with some thieves employing pumping systems to extract fuel, it’s almost certain that these individuals will turn up with gear to slice their way through basic locks.

Therefore, while it is always worth investing in a good-quality lock, this shouldn’t be your only line of defence. Furthermore, if a determined criminal has time on their side, they could potentially just drill straight into the tank to extract the contents.

Invest in good lighting

Most criminals use the cover of darkness to escape with their spoils so preventing this with a reliable lighting system can go a long way to tackling fuel theft. For example, the tank could be covered with a spotlight while this system could also be put on a motion-activated system to avoid annoying neighbours.

Regardless, illumination should go a long way to dissuade those acting suspiciously.

Employ CCTV

For years, petrol stations have been using CCTV to catch individuals who drove off without paying for fuel. As well as providing evidence to police, these systems also help dissuade other motorists from committing the offence.

Investing in a similar setup could have the same effect. Modern CCTV is relatively affordable and can be a valuable tool in your arsenal against fuel thieves. At the very least, a reliable system is far cheaper than the contents of most filled tanks. 

Fence it off

Installing fences and locked gates around a fuel tank can be a great deterrent against thieves. To have maximum effect though, these should be as high as possible. Yet, if this stretches your security budget, you could consider a greener solution.

Planting shrubs or prickly thorns around your tank can also be quite effective. Modern forensics mean that a thief forcing his way through a bush will leave enough evidence to identify themselves. Furthermore, the prospect of clambering through spiky foliage should be enough to dissuade many a criminal.

Be notified

Burglar alarms are useful to prevent access to property and might be a valuable asset if your tank is stored in an outbuilding or shed. In other situations, however, this system might not be a sensible investment. Tuffa Tanks, a large UK provider of fuel storage tanks, recommends another way.

Writing about the issue of fuel theft prevention on it’s website, the organisation covers electronic level gauges. If the system detects something amiss – such as a sudden drop in contents – it will send out an alert, usually through text message, to the owner.

This method can be a valuable way of identifying thefts in progress.

Keep a regular inventory

This more low-technology variant of the method above is something which farmers should be doing anyway. Conducting a daily audit of tank levels and consumption can help with forecasting and identifying how much fuel is generally required month to month.

Conducting this audit on a daily basis can help to identify sudden drops or possible incidents of tampering. This also means that fuel thefts can be discovered almost immediately after they occur.

Park vehicles carefully

Throughout this article, we’ve dealt with fuel theft in relation to static tanks. However, it’s easy to forget that vehicles are also targeted by criminals. In this situation, the rules mentioned above largely apply. However, when finished with these vehicles for the day, it is worth parking them with their petrol cap against the wall – making access much harder.

Final thoughts

Rural fuel theft is a serious issue and one which can seriously hamper a business. This is especially true for farms which have been the victim of this offence before as criminals are more likely to try again if they’ve been successful. Therefore, investing in appropriate insurance should be a must in the event the worst should happen.

There is no fool-proof way to prevent yourself becoming the victim of fuel theft but these measures should help make you a harder target. In the end, that is what matters – convincing a criminal that the risk is not worth the reward.

Tom Chapman is a qualified journalist and wrote this article on behalf of fuel tank provider Tuffa Tanks. The organisation supplies products to a variety of sectors throughout the UK including the agricultural market.