What you need to know in order to stop fuel theft for good.

With fuel theft on the rise, companies need to take precautionary measures to ensure they account for every drop of fuel. The biggest challenge to navigate is the unpredictable nature of crime — it’s impossible to know what illicit actors are thinking and planning. After all, they’re working actively to outsmart protective best practices. It’s an issue that’s endemic and timeless to the industry.

Solving the problem means hardening core infrastructure and implementing systems to overhaul operations. In this post, you’ll learn actionable recommendations for how to identify and prevent fuel theft at your organization. This guide is particularly helpful for leadership at convenience stores and in the fleet space.

Gain perspective for how to stay ahead of theft issues before they have a chance to cause major problems in your business.

Tactical Steps to Get Ahead of Fuel Theft

Often part of large-scale coordinated efforts, thieves and fraudsters are intelligent. These groups are continually seeking ways to outsmart preventative measures. That means development of new technologies, recruiting more people into criminal syndicates, and sometimes coordinating efforts within the inside of a company. For these reasons, it’s unrealistic to root out the issue of fuel theft entirely.

But companies can get ahead of the problem to prevent losses by taking the following steps:

1. Build a More Granular Accounting Picture

For convenience stores and fleets alike, fuel theft is ultimately a finance and inventory reconciliation issue. Let’s say that a company purchases a billion gallons of gasoline for thousands of locations with 10,000 gallons unaccounted for. 

Finance teams may attribute the delta to a rounding error — or perhaps the supplier did not provide the correct amount of fuel. With this aggregate level picture, it’s difficult to identify the precise reason for fuel loss.

One valuable step that teams can take is to go deeper. What do month-over-month trends look like? Do losses correlate with specific locations or geographies? Are affected locations in regions with known fuel theft incidences?

Fuel loss happens for a variety of reasons. Without an understanding of these reasons, however, fuel theft has the potential to go undetected. In the worst case scenarios, it can be part of an inside job.

When there is loss on a balance sheet, it’s important for finance and inventory reconciliation teams to push an investigation into why. This analysis is crucial for uncovering illicit activity beneath the surface.

2. Establish Relationships with Law Enforcement

Local police, highway patrol, and federal authorities have a cross-sectional view into criminal activity and patterns. For this reason, it’s a good idea for companies to proactively reach out and build an open line of communication with law enforcement. Depending on the agency and location, there may be distribution lists or watch groups dedicated to reporting criminal activity.

These days, law enforcement is under pressure to keep up with more crime than there are resources to fight illicit activity. Community-based groups can provide an added level of security in an otherwise overwhelmed justice system. These mechanisms, however, are unlikely to defend against potential inside jobs.

3. Standardize Security and Monitoring Protocols

Store chains and franchises, in particular, will benefit from systematizing their security protocols. Many facilities are not monitored — and that’s a risk. Or, different locations will have their own systems that have not been vetted to meet an established standard.

Fragmented or nonuniform processes have the potential to be detrimental due to the absence of an auditable, enforceable framework. Without a centralized program, companies may also waste time and resources on non-essential business practices.

Example security systems include:

  • Locking down dispensers
  • Locking down tanks
  • Implementing card reader systems
  • After-hours monitoring systems

Companies will rely on a combination of measures for an effective strategy. However, it is important to keep in mind that even the best systems may not be enough to deter a sophisticated criminal operation.

Conclusion

If you rely on manual steps to check your fuel inventory, you probably aren't going to do it that often. Let's face it: You're simply too busy to do something so laborious and error-prone when the industry has come to accept so much inventory loss as unavoidable. But it doesn't have to be. The right combination of technology, relationships, and processes can significantly reduce fuel theft and also save you from inventory loss from other sources as well. To learn more tactics to stop fuel theft and start accounting for every drop of fuel in your inventory, download the full ebook.

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