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Possible solutions to vehicle based fuel theft

By Jonathon Reynolds - 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
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Myrmecia 10:22 pm 25 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.”

How does this work for a “fillerup”?

Snarky 7:55 pm 25 May 08

el @#25, yes, that’s the one.

el 3:40 pm 25 May 08

Initial cost would be a factor, but I’d guess the main problem would be providing access to the system that holds the records of registration details (privact act and all that).

Nosey 3:20 pm 25 May 08

Why can’t the service stations have similar technology that the cops use to photograph the number plates of cars. It instantly tells the cops what cars are stolen, unregistered etc….

A similar type of system would be good at service stations. You drive in, it takes a photo, instantly checks if the plates or the car is stolen, and if all is ok then the pump will let the fuel flow.

Would cost a bit to set up but I’m sure they can afford to do it. In the long run they would save a fortune.

Just a thought!!!!

el 2:15 pm 25 May 08

Yep Danman, permits are available for one day or one week for travel within the ACT (have done this numerous times myself). The wallopers now also have l33T cameras which they can set up (stationary) to take shots of the number plates of oncoming cars, check against the RUS database and ping people for driving around unregistered (with a fine at around $830 IIRC).

The leasing option sounds like a goer, too. I paid $95 to fill up yesterday and generally use a tank a week…

Danman 1:55 pm 25 May 08

Tamper proof to me just means they can not remove the plate without causing considerable damage to the donor car…If they want it, they will get it, its just minutes Vs Seconds really.

Cars that have no number plates may also be on a 24 hr permit to get rego… I have done it, I have friends who have done it, its in no way illegal if the car purchased does not come with plates.

The permit allows transit to and from rego office and mechanics places of business (My understanding, happy to be corrected)

My next car will probably be a late model ford territory, Toyota Kluger or falcodore – petrol is no concern of mine as I plan to suck down my worth of petrol whilst on la lease plan scheme or some version of salary sacrifice. It is stinging me at the moment, at 80 bucks to fill up… I remember a few years back I sold my 4runner because i was spewing it cost me $50 to fill up, I got a 1.3l suzuki swift after that car and that ended up costing 50 bucks a tank when I sold it as well… now its 80… Cant wait until I get a new car… just for the cost of petrol and mechanical being covered…..Sure I pay for it in the long run, in a series of regular payments, but so much easier than forking out 80 bucks each time i fill up…

el 1:03 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.

Spideydog 11:47 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.

Felix the Cat 6:20 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.

Dave F 12:20 am 25 May 08

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

ant 10:06 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.

el 9:42 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.

123qwe 9:31 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!

VicePope 9:29 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.

Snarky 9:26 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.

Spideydog 1:50 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.

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