Running on empty - Farm fuel theft

In this blog, Rural Surveyor, Claire Wright explores how you can protect your tanks from fuel theft.

Whilst the price of both heating oil and vehicle fuels has eased slightly in recent days from the record highs of March; the cost of fuel combined with some constriction on supply as a result of protest activity at some depots has seen fuel tanks become attractive targets for thieves.

Both fixed fuel tanks in the yard and vehicles can all be vulnerable to theft. Fortunately there are some simple practices that you can employ to minimise your chances of becoming a victim of fuel theft as farming activity begins to ramp up.

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With the high cost of fuel, there is an increased risk of fuel theft

CCTV

Some of these are general crime prevention techniques to ensure that your farm yard isn’t vulnerable to criminal activity including ensuring CCTV cover is adequate and includes the area where the fuel tanks are located; if it is possible to improve the lighting of area or park vehicles in lit areas of the yard then this will be a deterrent to thieves.

Always ensure that you have erected signage warning that CCTV is operational on the site as this will also be off-putting to potential criminals. Where yards are away from the farm house then consider checking vehicles and premises out of hours to ensure they haven’t been targeted.

Other ways to protect yourself from fuel theft

There are also a variety of methods to protect your fuel tanks from theft. It is possible to swap fuel caps on tanks and vehicles for ones that are lockable. For an extra layer of security there are a wide range of fuel cap alarms; the more advanced ones can alert your phone if someone accesses the tank or trigger security lighting.

It is also worthwhile considering reducing the vulnerability of your fuel tanks by caging or fencing them to add an extra layer of security that thieves have to negotiate before they can steal the fuel within. It also goes without saying that the yard gates should also be closed and locked after hours; there is no point in leaving a welcome mat out for criminals.

Regulation considerations

Obviously the SSAFO regulations require anyone storing more than 1500 litres of agricultural fuel must have some form of secondary containment feature such as a bund in case of a leak or other spillage, but it may also be worth considering installing a bund where you are storing smaller quantities of fuels as it will help prevent a pollution incident if thieves puncture the tank or spill fuel if disturbed whilst committing a crime.

We are still some months away from harvest, but if you rely on mobile bowsers to refuel vehicles whilst undertaking operations then consider whether you utilise a mobile system that can be easily locked away in the yard at night to prevent the loss of a vital commodity at the worst time of year. Finally for those who run haulage businesses from their farms or estates consider changing your routine and preparing vehicles for a planned journey on the morning rather than leaving vehicles fully fuelled overnight.

Key contact:

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Claire Wright CLA South West Rural Surveyor