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Possible solutions to vehicle based fuel theft

By 23 May 2008 36

Back on the 13th May 2008, the Canberra Times ran an article about the fuel theft that has started to occur as a result of number-plates being stolen from cars. Obviously a number plate can be removed from a car even if you use tamper proof screws (if you are determined enough you would just jemmy the plate off with a screwdriver, and if you are out to commit a crime you aren’t going to worry about a slightly bent plate or damage to the car you stole the plate from). The article also mentioned that not many services stations had number plate recognition video software, besides that doesn’t stop drive-offs in the first place anyway. With the skyrocketing price of fuel, it looks like service station retailers will need to become more and more cautious and proactive to limit their losses with fuel theft. For example I know that the Independent Caltex Retailer in Kaleen has required consumers to pre-pay for fuel before you fill up after 9 pm at night for a while now. I’m not sure that any ACT retailers are requiring pre-payment during the day but it is becoming a more common practice interstate. Perhaps we will end up going the way they have in the UK. Service stations are taking more drastic steps to protect themselves with systems such as “Drivestop”. An interesting PDF describing the system. Their website is http://drivestop.com  (unfortunately you need to register to get to their demo video)

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36 Responses to Possible solutions to vehicle based fuel theft
#1
Whatsup11:01 am, 23 May 08

I like the service stations that give you the option to pay at the pump using your card. If you dont pay, you dont get any fuel. This system combined with the option to pay cash inside could be a good solution.

#2
ant11:13 am, 23 May 08

the caltex in Qbn opposite the fast-food chain strip mall has had a thing for a while where after 6pm you have to go in and pre-pay. I find this annoying so don’t go there after 6pm! The Mobil in Qbn near Magnet Mart often hangs “out of order” signs on the more remote pumps later at night, a tactic quite a few servos are using now.

Yesterday in Fyshwick, the Shell just up from Harvey Normans was charging 159.9, while the Mobil a block along near Canberra Ave was charging 147!

#3
tylersmayhem11:17 am, 23 May 08

I agree that a change in the processes that service stations use would surely resolve this issue. Even simply having to leave your licence with the operator while you fill up. I realise that people could forge (albeit fairly difficult I would imagine)licences, but surely this would be a simple and cost effective solution?! While it’s a bit of an added pain, but if this could potentially reduce the added cost to all consumers (replacement numberplate’s, and you would hope a slight decline in fuel costs – I know I’m probably dreaming here), but I’d be happy to hand my licence over before I fill up.

#4
vg11:28 am, 23 May 08

In the US, at least when I was last there, it was standard practice to pay for your petrol before you filled. Guess what….no drive offs.

Service stations have been told this time and time again. They don’t want to do it because they say it will remove the walk in shop custom they get from people who buy the overpriced Coke or snacks. I say until they take actual steps towards preventing the theft (which means pre-payment) they should be ignored. They don’t want to do anything to help themselves

#5
caf11:36 am, 23 May 08

The overpriced Coke and snacks are the only things that they actually make money from. The retail margin on petrol is slim.

#6
tylersmayhem11:36 am, 23 May 08

Good point vg! And who pays the higher price at the bowsers because of this greed and short-sightedness…

You’ll see a theme in many of my posts – the people responsible for situations like this is us as consumers. Stop paying $2.50 for a Mars bar and encouraging the petrol stations bad behaviour! As long as consumers keep buying this overpriced s**t, the companies will keep selling it. You can’t blame than for our dumb behaviour.

Don’t even get me started about the price of popcorn and Coke at Cinemas – same situation!

#7
RuffnReady12:14 pm, 23 May 08

vg said :

In the US, at least when I was last there, it was standard practice to pay for your petrol before you filled. Guess what….no drive offs.

Service stations have been told this time and time again. They don’t want to do it because they say it will remove the walk in shop custom they get from people who buy the overpriced Coke or snacks. I say until they take actual steps towards preventing the theft (which means pre-payment) they should be ignored. They don’t want to do anything to help themselves

Yup, been that way in the US for years.

And spot on – if the servos are just thinking about their bottom line in ignoring the obvious solution, screw them!

#8
Mælinar12:21 pm, 23 May 08

People who think the retail margin of fuel is slim do not understand volume based economics.

Nobody is in the market to lose money, to think so is allowing blinkers to be pulled over one’s eyes.

#9
Hamilton4:25 pm, 23 May 08

Can someone explain why the price of petrol changes each day. Say for example a caltex in Braddon fills up their 200,000 litre tank on a Monday and pays the petrol company $1.00 per litre (i’m making the maths easy here). That means that they have paid $200,000 for the fuel in that tank. The fuel has already been refined and delivered so there should be no more cost as the fuel is now on site. So if you apply a margin of say 20% they should be selling petrol to the public at $1.20 per litre until the 200,000 litres has run out. But this is not the case, the price fluctuates on a daily basis for a product that has already been refined and delivered and is available to the public for consumption.

Imagine if woolworths purchased 200,000 1 litre milk bottles on a monday and sold them for $2.00 on a Monday, $2.30 on a Tuesday, $3.00 on a Wendesday and so on. The product has already been paid for in it’s saleable state so WTF gives them the right to change the price on a daily basis?

#10
tylersmayhem4:34 pm, 23 May 08

I completely agree Hamilton – and that’s a really good angle you’ve come up with. What we need in Canberra is a forum where consumers can report the daily prices of their local petrol station. As consumers, we can then reward the outlets charging the ore reasonable prices by buying there, and avoid the ones which are ripping us off. It’s to the stage where this “brute force” approach may be the only language they understand.

So…can RiotACT develop a utility where we can all log in daily and report the petrol prices we see on the way to work each day?!

#11
caf5:36 pm, 23 May 08

People who think you can make a boatload out of retailing petrol in an urban area don’t understand the economics of highly fungible commodities in a competitive environment.

Hamilton: They have the right to charge whatever they want, because they own the fuel that’s in their tanks. Taking your argument to it’s logical conclusion, if I bought a house in 1965 for $10000, I should have to sell it today for no more than that?

#12
astroboy6:21 pm, 23 May 08

where else can the consumer obtain the product without having to pay for it first … simple solution – pay up front and then consume the goods

#13
Skip8:58 pm, 23 May 08

“where else can the consumer obtain the product without having to pay for it first … simple solution – pay up front and then consume the goods”

Well, I don’t know about you astroboy but when I last ate at a restaurant, I didn’t prepay for my tucker. It’s really horses for courses isn’t it?

#14
ant9:52 pm, 23 May 08

Petrol goes up sometime Thursday, usually the morning, sometimes earlier than that, it depends on the servo. Stays up all weekend, starts to fall Monday arvo, and hits its lowest Wednesday night. Thursdays are paydays…

I love it when people carefully horde their shopper dockets and plan everything around them, save $2 on their fill, and buy chips and rubbish in the servo shop. Paying double.

I didn’t mind the swipe and pay things on the pumps in the US, when they bloody worked.

#15
minime21:25 am, 24 May 08

Well Ant … not exactly right.

If fuel is $1.60 and you get 4c off per litre.. you get a 2.5% discount. But buy no crap.

If you buy $5 worth of servo crap you get an additional 4c = 8c a litre off.

If you bought 50L you saved $2 @ 4c a-litre-discount.

If you buy the $5 worth crap you get $4 off [but none on the fuel as it is only 2.5% so why bother] – so you actually save 4/5 of price; you get a 80% discount on $5 of crap.

Interesting math, eh?

#16
Timberwolf659:14 am, 24 May 08

Im really starting to get the shits with the price of fuel, it’s costing me $20,00 dollars more per week to fill up and it’s only going to keep going up.

I never buy anything more than fuel from servo’s, it’s just a complete rip off otherwise.

Fuel is a complete rip off, soon we will all be driving round in the days of mad max!!!

#17
jenny green9:51 am, 24 May 08

A year ago pre-pay seemed pretty standard in NZ. You go into the shop and pay before they turn the bowser on. Makes no difference paying before or after to me!

#18
Adza11:39 am, 24 May 08

It gets harder when you don’t know how much it’s going to be… or if you have to pay after via fuel card.

#19
ant11:52 am, 24 May 08

I wonder if companies and gov’t that offer senior people the perk of vehicles have factored into their budgets the effect of rising fuel costs? Might be some budget blowouts happening. One thing’s for sure, if they had to pay for their own petrol, many of these characters would be opting for smaller vehicles.

#20
RuffnReady12:01 pm, 24 May 08

Timberwolf65 said :

Im really starting to get the shits with the price of fuel, it’s costing me $20,00 dollars more per week to fill up and it’s only going to keep going up.

I never buy anything more than fuel from servo’s, it’s just a complete rip off otherwise.

Fuel is a complete rip off, soon we will all be driving round in the days of mad max!!!

Well, duh. Fossil fuels don’t grow on trees. We use 85,000,000 barells of the stuff a DAY. The world has roughly 40 years of oil left in the ground.

Rather than complaining about the price of petrol as if it is a god-given right to use as much of it as you please, try modifying your behaviour and using less.

#21
Spideydog1:50 pm, 24 May 08

vg said :

In the US, at least when I was last there, it was standard practice to pay for your petrol before you filled. Guess what….no drive offs.

Service stations have been told this time and time again. They don’t want to do it because they say it will remove the walk in shop custom they get from people who buy the overpriced Coke or snacks. I say until they take actual steps towards preventing the theft (which means pre-payment) they should be ignored. They don’t want to do anything to help themselves

Hit the nail on the head.

#22
Snarky9:26 pm, 24 May 08

An anecdote on fuel and margins for retailers.

In my area there was a servo owned by one of the large fuel companies with a service garage attached. The company wanted out, so they sold the property to the proprietor who was leasing it from them, and in the process they removed the fuel storage tanks (a legal thing, apparently).

I asked the new owner when he was going to reinstall new ones and he said he had no intention to – the margin he was making per litre was so low that it only took one big drive-away theft to completely negate the profit from fuel for the day, and he was suffering from a couple a week at that stage. He’s kept the garage instead as it’s far more profitable.

#23
VicePope9:29 pm, 24 May 08

I have pretty well lost count of the number of cars I have seen in recent weeks with either no numberplate or a numberplate that was obviously obscured. Nicking petrol from servos might be some of the cause, but my gut feeling is that it’s more about speed and red light cameras. I’d love to see the coppers taking an interest.

Since petrol prices started going stupid, I have taken to carrying an extra bit of money around to top up whenever there’s a good price. So far, it’s worked – Tuesdays are usually best. The supermarket backed servos in the burbs are probably the best deal if you have a docket.

#24
123qwe9:31 pm, 24 May 08

What odds for $2.00 a litre by the start of 2009?

The crude oil price generally has a dramatic increase during the northern hemisphere winter, so fuel is probably quite cheap at this time of year.

Does anyone want to buy my V6 4WD? I’ll through in a tank of fuel (about $100.00 worth).

I think by 2009 I will have quadraceps of steel and be a hell of a lot fitter!

#25
el9:42 pm, 24 May 08

Snarky – not the bloke in Fisher by any chance?

$95 to fill up today….starting to get nasty at a tank per week.

#26
ant10:06 pm, 24 May 08

Vicepope said:

VicePope said :

I have pretty well lost count of the number of cars I have seen in recent weeks with either no numberplate or a numberplate that was obviously obscured. Nicking petrol from servos might be some of the cause, but my gut feeling is that it’s more about speed and red light cameras. I’d love to see the coppers taking an interest.

I hate to say anything positive about our useless police, but last week there was a Cortina-y thing on the middle of Belconnen Way, with a young yobbish-looking man stamping around it, and a cop car with lights going parked behind it, and the Cortina-y thing lacking a rear numberplate.

#27
Dave F12:20 am, 25 May 08

Anyone know where to buy the tamper proof number plate screws?

#28
Felix the Cat6:20 am, 25 May 08

ant said :

Yesterday in Fyshwick, the Shell just up from Harvey Normans was charging 159.9, while the Mobil a block along near Canberra Ave was charging 147!

I quite often go past those servos and have noticed the same thing! Yet in other areas like Braddon or Gungahlin TC where there are two or more servos close by the prices are nearly always identical.

#29
Spideydog11:47 am, 25 May 08

Dave F said :

Anyone know where to buy the tamper proof number plate screws?

Bunnings, I thought

Or contact ACT Policing Crime Prevention section and they will tell you.

#30
el1:03 pm, 25 May 08

The mention of tamper proof screws has me wondering: How ‘tamper proof’ are these fasteners, anyway? What if you need to remove the plate when moving interstate?

Sounds like sometime Loc-tite (or even superglue) could handle reasonably easily – Given that on most cars the screw/bolt is met on the other side with a simple hex nut.

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