Fuel theft is an ongoing problem for many businesses, farms, construction sites, homeowners and forecourts.

As a leading UK fuel and lubricants supplier, we are regularly asked for advice on how to secure fuel in an onsite storage tank. This guide contains top tips on how to help deter criminals and what to do if you’re the unfortunate victim of fuel theft.

What is fuel theft?

Fuel theft most commonly refers to petrol, diesel and heating oil stolen from vehicles and fuel tanks. Thieves are attracted to remote locations and generally target farms and construction sites during the winter. The shorter days and longer nights make it easier to steal thousands of pounds worth of fuel quickly and discreetly.

However, whilst most cases of fuel theft occur during the winter, it’s important to be vigilant throughout the year.

how is fuel stolen?

The volume of fuel stolen and the technique used varies greatly. Criminals generally use basic techniques such as a tube to siphon/decant away the fuel into portable containers. However, more recent techniques include pumping the fuel into bulk tanks mounted on criminals’ vehicles which speeds up the theft and allows larger amounts of fuel to be uplifted.

Unfortunately, in many instances of fuel theft, tank sight tube gauges or supply pipes are smashed or cut during the process. This can cause the remaining fuel to leak into the surrounding environment, voiding insurance policies and causing high clean up costs.

how to detect fuel theft

Fuel oil stored in above-ground tanks is generally more at risk from theft as it’s more easily accessible. If you suspect any suspicious behaviour around a fuel tank, you must report it to the police as soon as possible.

fuel prevention detection device/sensors

At Speedy Fuels, we provide a tank telemetry system which is essentially a fuel theft monitoring system that has sensors that are fitted to the tank to monitor the fuel on a continuous basis.

If they detect any unusual drop in oil levels, you will be notified that either a theft or leak is in process, allowing you to take action without delay.

It’s worth noting that this won’t necessarily prevent theft before it happens. By the time you are aware of a mishap, the tank could already be damaged.

Implementing the below steps will help prevent the theft from happening in the first place.

fuel theft prevention

It’s important to put measures in place to protect your fuel tank and make it extremely difficult for thieves to target your fuel.

How to stop fuel theft

Fuel theft solutionBenefit
Locate in safe locationMany thieves use Google Maps to find satellite images of fuel tanks. Consider locating your tank behind a garage or shed and away from roads. Positioning it close to your business or home will ensure it’s in clear view. Remember to locate the tank away from any risk of obstruction and ensure it’s easily accessible for delivery drivers.
Install an alarmConsider fitting alarms to external gates surrounding your fuel tank or to the inside of a shed or outbuilding that is housing the tank.
Fit a fuel theft lockThieves often come armed with tools so it’s worth investing in quality locks, locking fuel caps and anti-siphoning deterrents to slow down the criminals and reduce the likelihood of success. Locks with a CEN or BSEN 12320 Grade 6 classification indicate maximum security (Grade 1 is the least secure)
Locate inside a security gate or cageA good quality, robust fence or cage will help make life difficult for thieves.
Install outdoor security lightingPositioning your tank in the bright light is an effective solution worth considering. With the majority of thieves striking at night, installing automatic security lighting will help stop criminals from targeting your fuel
tank. Low energy dusk till dawn lights are a low-cost option to protect your expensive fuels and oils.
Install CCTVInstalling visible CCTV cameras on your premises can dissuade anyone from targeting your tank as well as catch a thief in the act, providing the police with the evidence needed to bring justice to those who choose to ignore the deterrent.
Put up signageSigns to highlight the security measures you’ve installed can help deter those up to no good. These could include: Private property, keep out, Warning CCTV in operation, All vehicles are left with minimum fuel, Security
patrols in operation, All vehicles fitted with security devices
Consider installing a steel tankSteel tanks are studier than plastic tanks which makes fuel theft
more difficult.
fuel theft sentence

Fuel theft is a criminal offence and can result in up to a seven-year prison sentence. It can be reported via an online to your local police form or by calling your local police force.

Factors that indicate a criminal offence:

  • False number plate
  • Concealing their identity
  • Concealing the vehicle’s identity
  • Filling the container with fuel
  • Driving off quickly
what to do if your fuel is in the process of being stolen

If you witness a theft in process, you must never approach them as this could place you in harm’s way.

  1. Call 999 and report the theft
  2. If you can, record the act so it can be used as evidence
  3. Make a note of the vehicle’s registration number, if it’s safe to do so
  4. Once the police have arrived, keep hold of the crime number
  5. Call your insurance provider
  6. Install extra safety measures as discussed above to reduce the risk of theft happening in the future
what to do if your fuel has been stolen

If the theft has already occurred, you must call 101 instead of 999. You should then follow the above steps.

  1. Call 101 and report the theft
  2. Submit any evidence such as CCTV footage
  3. Once the police have arrived, keep hold of the crime number
  4. Call your insurance provider
  5. Install extra safety measures as discussed above to reduce the risk of theft happening in the future
fuel theft cost

The cost of fuel theft can be catastrophic to replace lost fuels and oils and repair tanks, pumps and ancillary equipment. Fuel thefts surged to 39,563 incidents between July-September 2023 a surge of 77% compared to 2022 and more than quadrupled since 2019, costing filling stations an average of £10,500 each per year (RAC Foundation). While fuel theft is more common at filling stations, fuel theft for larger businesses can be even more costly due to the greater volume of fuel stolen in addition to a halt in business operations.

fuel card theft

Fuel cards are growing in popularity, but this, unfortunately, comes with the risk of increased fraudulent activity.

Around 25% of fleet managers have reported that their fuel cards have been intercepted in the post. Card skimming is another issue, with scammers installing cameras over keypads so that they can record the pin. The card can then be cloned and used to make fraudulent purchases.

Another type of fuel theft is when employees fill up their company vehicle but then siphon some of the fuel for personal use.

But there are steps that you can take to minimise the risk of fuel card theft or abuse. Providing each driver with their own card will help identify each transaction. You can also set card limits once you know how many miles the vehicle does to the gallon on average.

At Speedy Fuels, we offer Harvest Fuel cards which mitigate risk by using chip and pin technology, reducing the risk of theft and fraudulent use and making them a secure option for fleet managers.

fuel theft from petrol stations

Another type of common fuel theft is where someone dispenses fuel from a pump and deliberately leaves without paying. It is often known as ‘making off without payment’ and ‘bilking’.

Occasionally, this can be an honest mistake. In this instance, you can make a civil recovery by completing a V888/2A form on GOV.UK to request the name and address of the registered keeper at the time of the incident. You can then write to the registered keeper, advising them of the time and date of the incident, the amount owed and how they can arrange payment.

Are you the victim of fuel theft?

Get in touch with Speedy Fuels on 0330 123 3773 for advice on installing a safe and secure fuel storage tank. We have a wide range of options on hand to help protect your valuable assets.