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.
Fuel Theft Trends Overview
As fuel prices are rising, so is the issue of fuel theft — with mechanisms for stealing becoming more sophisticated.
Consider the Summer 2022 case of two Virginia Beach men getting caught pumping thousands of dollars worth of gasoline from a Citgo gas station. The suspects used a device to illegally obtain the gas from the pumps, with the intention to resell the fuel for a cheaper price on the black market. The thieves even advertised the operation on social media as part of a larger conspiracy.
This story is one of countless incidents. In Las Vegas and Florida, for instance, law enforcement recently became aware of highly modified trucks stealing thousands of gallons of gas.
“They go in and they change the pulsator," said Ned Bowman, executive director at Florida Petroleum Marketers in an interview with Business Insider. "The pulsator is the device that is inside the gas pump that regulates the flow of the fuel. So they're able to change the price of the fuel down to a nickel or a penny to the gallon and fill the back of their trucks up—their bladders or spare tanks—with fuel that's basically free."
It’s not just convenience stores that are navigating the consequences of fuel theft — and it’s not an issue limited to the United States, either. At US$133 billion per year, oil is the largest stolen natural resource globally. In the United Kingdom, unpaid fuel incidents at gas stations rose 22% in June 2022.
Fuel theft is a challenge that fleet managers need to watch out for as well, with bad actors being known to target vehicles along trucking routes.
“Fuel theft impacts operations at the upstream, midstream, and downstream levels, and it is so entrenched that even politicians, military personnel, and police are complicit in illegal activities,” explains a 2017 Business Insider article.
There’s no getting away from the risk of fuel theft. Where there are valuable resources, there will be illicit behavior. So what steps can convenience store operators take to minimize losses without creating added burden for customers at the pump?
The key is to increase resiliency and awareness through a combination of data, analytics, communication, proactive measures, and education.
The first step to knowing whether you are missing fuel is to learn how to account for your inventory as best you can. This means tapping into the full arsenal of tools at your disposal. The crucial piece of this process is technology. With the right technology, you can see how much fuel you have, learn when large amounts of fuel leave your tanks, and plan your fuel delivery with precision.
To learn more about understanding and stopping fuel theft, download our full ebook.
To learn how you can find your own combo of data, analytics, and more to finally spot and stop fuel theft, download the full ebook, free of charge.