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How to Combat Fuel Theft and What to Do If It Happens

Posted December 8, 2020


A corporate vice-president found himself in a difficult situation that made him wonder which employees he could trust and which he should not. He finally requested an after-hours conference with his CEO, a man he greatly admired.

After explaining the problem at hand, he asked the CEO, “How do you know who you can trust?”

The reply stunned him. “I don’t trust anyone.”

“Anyone? But that would include me!”

“Yes, it does. But at least you have your answer and I recommend that you do the same.”

The CEO added that he tended to rely more on the people who continually gave him the best reasoning, ideas, performance, and results. He also believed that knowing the numbers made it easier to discern the difference between whom he should or should not trust in any given situation.

Survey Says

A recent survey of fleet managers by Software Advice revealed that a whopping 53 percent responded that fuel costs exceeded projections “somewhat” or “very” frequently.  Fifty-four percent agreed that they were either “somewhat” or “very” concerned that fuel theft was a major contributing factor (see chart).

The fleet managers surveyed had a few ideas about how to address the problems they perceived:

  • Twenty-seven percent of survey respondents say that improved data collection and analytics is a top benefit of fleet management software.
  • Another 27 percent say that improved budgeting is a major advantage of using a fleet management solution.
  • Seventeen percent of respondents say enhanced employee monitoring capabilities is a worthwhile benefit of fleet management software.

What Kind of Actions Should Fleet Managers Consider?

What constitutes appropriate action? Here are some basic guidelines:

  1. Establish and publish benchmarks for fuel consumption and expect them to be met.
  2. Develop and enforce fuel policies. Be clear and consistent.
  3. Expect every transaction to be documented in detail.
  4. Install anti-theft devices, including anti-siphoning hardware and fuel level sensors.
  5. Do the math. Know to a certainty if you are losing, how much you are losing, and what it is costing you.
  6. Beware of skimming. According to Trucker Info, “The biggest problem we see is not theft of the whole tank of fuel, but skimming, where 20-50 gallons are stolen in just a few minutes. Unfortunately, these incidents often go unnoticed by the fleet or owner-operator because quantities are small. Fuel management systems might pick this up as poor fuel economy, maybe 2-4 percent of fuel consumption. It is significant, but perhaps not enough to alert you to a theft problem.”
  7. Be smarter than the thieves. Check every aberration. If a driver is stealing fuel, expect him to find creative ways to do so. Note that the term was “creative,” not necessarily smart.
    • One driver hid another fuel tank under his truck.
    • The same driver found a way to rig fueling pumps to register no more than 1.5 gallons, even though he pumped 100.
  8. Use fuel cards.
  9. Implement advanced technology such as WEX EFS SecureFuel theft prevention technology solution
  10. Ensure that your IT system is adequately protected against intrusion.

Recognize the Problem, then Manage It

A man without the facts can easily be fooled. It does not matter whether the loss you are experiencing is 1,000 gallons a month or 10,000 gallons a month. The amount of loss is probably proportionate to the size of your company. Twenty-first century technology now makes monitoring, measuring, and analyzing easier than our predecessors could have imagined. Keep up with the technology. Stay on top of your numbers. Stay ahead of the thieves. Help your company operate more efficiently and profitably.


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