Press Office

Wednesday 29 Oct 2014

Press Release

5 Live Investigates: fuel crime on the increase as pump prices reach record highs

BBC Radio 5 Live reveals evidence of a rise in fuel crime and speaks to hauliers who have fallen victim to thousands of pounds worth of thefts in the past year alone.

At 9.00pm on Sunday 25 March, 5 Live Investigates will explore the details from a survey carried out by the Road Haulage Association on behalf of Radio 5 Live.

The questionnaire was sent to 6,000 firms, and 150 companies responded.

Almost two-thirds of the hauliers who responded – 88 firms – have been victims of fuel theft over the past 12 months. While the vast majority of these thefts were from lorries that were parked up, there were a handful of incidents reported where diesel had been taken from storage tanks direct from the depot.

One respondent to the survey said a driver's tank was emptied while he slept in the cab, while another said his two trucks had been targeted nine times in the past 12 months.

Some of the firms reported that even taking additional security measures such as locked caps and anti-siphon devices did not prevent the thefts.

Most of the hauliers targeted did report the thefts to the police, but some felt it was a waste of time reporting the offence and believed there was little chance of a positive outcome.

One haulier commented: "It takes about an hour to get through to an operator and go through the business of reporting the crime. The police will not be interested anyway so it is not time effective."

Another said: "The ever increasing price of diesel will mean there are more would-be thieves around. Tackle the cost of diesel and you would improve the problem."

As the price of petrol and diesel continues to rise, fuel has become a highly valued commodity among criminals who sell it on for a below market cost. This is resulting in large losses for haulage firms.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) represents about a quarter of the HGVs in Britain. Chrys Rampley, head of security for the Road Haulage Association, said: "There are thieves out there who are determined, sitting and waiting for the right moment to siphon the fuel. A whole fleet of 10 to 15 vehicles can have their diesel taken in one night – that is a lot of fuel.

"I know of companies who have been attacked more than once. As soon as they have filled up their tanks the thieves are back again waiting outside the premises. It is putting some companies in jeopardy of going under."

One medium-size haulage company, HMT Shipping, estimates the cost to their company in stolen diesel over the past eighteen months at £10,000. Incidents have included one major theft of 5,000 litres of fuel from their yard in North Lancashire and thefts from lorry tanks parked at the yard and away from base in Kent.

On one occasion the incident was caught on CCTV. Footage showed the thieves breaking the lock on the fuel tank and siphoning the fuel into drums. During a 40-minute period, a group of men used a battery-powered device that can be bought cheaply from army surplus stores to drain the fuel from four lorries.

HMT Shipping has taken measures to reduce the risk of theft with improved security at its site in Heysham by investing in CCTV, a security fence and by reducing the amount of fuel in tanks, but the problem remains.

HMT Shipping's UK Manager, Dennis Davenport, commented: "At one time we would have been concerned that if someone attacked your lorry they'd be looking to see what the cargo was. These days a vehicle with 1,000 litres of fuel you're talking about a pump value of £1,350. It's instantly useable and disposable of. The fuel you carry is now more valuable than the cargo."

He continued: "You do get angry – it puts the cost of operating up and everybody ends up paying for that."

Chrys Rampley of the RHA said: "The response from the police is patchy because a lot of police don't record it or aren't interested in recording it because it is difficult to detect; once you have siphoned it there are no marks and no numbers so trying to identify where it has come from is very difficult."

5 Live Investigates will also look at increasing levels of organised crime associated with fuel racketeering.

Investigators from HM Revenue and Customs are uncovering more diesel laundering plants, where the dye used in duty-exempt agricultural diesel is washed out, so that it can be sold for general use. In the last financial year, HMRC raided 20 plants – four in Britain, and 16 in Northern Ireland – a rise from six the previous 12 months. The figures are likely to be higher in 2010/11. The loss in duty from these scams is believed to cost the public purse about £800 million a year.

You can hear the full report on 5 Live Investigates on Sunday 20 March at 9.00pm on BBC Radio 5 Live.


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