How to Prevent Gas Theft: 7 Ways
In light of rising gas prices and other challenges, fuel theft is becoming prevalent in the United States and Canada. Since mid-2022, law enforcement agencies have been recommending that everyday drivers and commercial fleet workers alike take extra precautions to protect their vehicles from gas thieves 1.
If you’ve never experienced it, you might not know how to prevent gas theft. This guide is here to help. We’re breaking down everything fleet managers, owner-operators, and drivers need to know about why gasoline theft occurs and the steps you can take to keep your fuel supply safe.
Read on for an in-depth explanation of how to prevent fuel theft.
What Is Gas Theft?
The first step in learning how to prevent fuel theft from truck tanks is understanding how it works.
Fuel thieves typically use a gas siphoning device to transfer gas from a vehicle’s tank to a separate container—either their own vehicle or a portable gas can 2. Siphons aren’t sophisticated devices and can be made from household items (like garden hoses), so they aren’t always easy to identify.
But siphoning fuel from a vehicle’s tank isn’t the only type of fuel theft. Fuel thieves can also use victims’ credit, debit, or fuel cards to make unauthorized gasoline purchases.
Why Does Gas Theft Happen? 3 Common Causes
Another critical question to ask when learning about fuel theft prevention is, “What are some common causes of fuel theft?” Let’s break down three situations that can lead to unexpected gasoline theft.
#1 Driver Habits
Unfortunately, drivers can expose themselves to fuel theft risks by embracing bad habits. Parking is a particular pressure point for drivers, who can inadvertently increase their risks by parking in:
- Public places for prolonged periods
- Dark, shadowed spots
- Security camera blind spots/unmonitored parking areas
- Unsecure fleet or fueling lots
Lack of attention to fuel tank access can also lead to theft. If drivers obscure their fuel doors and caps from view (from either passersby or security cameras), they could inadvertently give gas thieves the privacy they need to deploy a gas siphoning device and portable fuel tank without being seen.
#2 Unsecured Parking and Fuel Areas
Whether they leave their vehicles in public lots during overnight stays or park in a fleet-owned station until their next trip, drivers could increase their risk of fuel theft by leaving their vehicles unattended in unsecured parking and fueling areas.
If you’re a fleet manager, vehicles may sit unsupervised in your lot when they’re not in use—and your company cars and trucks may be in danger of theft if your parking area:
- Doesn’t have a locked gate or access point
- Isn’t monitored 24/7 by guards or security cameras
- Doesn’t feature a tall or secure enough fence to prevent climbing
Unfortunately, even your company lot can be a target for thieves. While you can’t control the security of public lots or roadside rest stops, you can make efforts to secure your own lot or fueling station.
#3 Employee Fuel Theft
If your brand operates a fleet or hires owner-operators, there’s a chance you could be losing fuel to your own employees. While using company fleet fuel cards to purchase gas for a personal car—or siphoning fuel from a fleet vehicle into a personal vehicle—would certainly be risky, it’s not entirely out of the question.
Luckily, advancements in fuel card technology have made it easier than ever to prevent fraud, limit spending in the event of card compromise, and verify fuel purchases. We’ll discuss these preventative measures in more detail in the next section, but these security innovations can help fleet managers and logistics brands avoid (and identify) both fraudulent purchases and potential siphoning incidents.
7 Ways to Prevent Fuel Theft
Now that you know how fuel theft typically occurs, let’s break down seven simple prevention measures that owner-operators, and professional drivers can use to protect themselves and their vehicles in the world of fleet fuel management.
#1 Use a Secure Fuel Card
One of the most effective ways to prevent fraudulent fuel purchases is by using a secure business gas card—a card used specifically for commercial vehicle gas purchases.
A secure fuel card is so much more than a typical credit card. Today’s fuel card platforms are more reliable than ever, and managers can prevent fraud using tools like:
- SMS lock and purchase verification – Before drivers can make a purchase with their fuel card, they’ll have to verify the purchase on their smartphones. Dual authentication can provide additional security and fraud protection.
- Operational/purchase hour limits – Managers can restrict their fuel cards to only allow purchases during certain hours. For example, only allowing purchases between the hours of 6:00 am and 8:00 pm can prevent card thieves from making overnight purchases or give managers time to investigate suspicious activity (i.e., attempted after-hours card swipes).
- Spending caps – Setting daily, weekly, or monthly fuel card spending limits can prevent financial catastrophe in the event of card theft. If a driver’s fuel card falls into the wrong hands, for instance, a fuel cap could keep them from spending an astronomical sum.
#2 Educate Drivers on Fuel Theft Risks
An increased emphasis on driver education could increase their situational awareness and prevent theft incidents. Some potential additions to your professional development curricula may include:
- Safe parking habits
- Fuel card fraud basics (e.g., keeping card numbers and authorization codes private)
- Vigilance against suspicious activities
- Fuel tracking and monitoring
Empowering your drivers to prevent theft while they’re on the road could reduce your fleet’s risk exposure. Educate employees on the warning signs and common tactics for fuel theft to help them identify potential thieves, avoid unsafe parking areas, and keep their gas card information secure.
#3 Secure Your Parking or Fueling Areas
If you have a parking or fueling facility where drivers or owner-operators leave their vehicles between trips, you should take steps to properly secure your property against potential fuel theft.
Some security measures that could thwart potential thieves include:
- Locked gates and garage doors
- Taller fences or anti-climbing fence designs
- Motion sensor lights
- Security cameras
- Overnight monitoring by security guards
As you create a more secure parking area for your fleet vehicles, remind employees to park in areas featuring some of the above features to prevent theft events. While they may not have access to a locked lot while they’re on the road, they may be able to find an overnight parking space in view of a security camera.
#4 Monitor and Maintain Your Parking or Fueling Areas
While adding a padlock to your parking area or a security camera to your fueling station may prevent theft, don’t forget about the importance of theft response. Make sure to routinely:
- Check your security camera footage. (You can simplify this process by setting up motion alerts for each camera).
- Request regular updates from your overnight security team members.
- Ensure your locks and anti-climbing devices are in working order.
If you discover evidence of a theft event during your regular monitoring, be sure to:
- Share any relevant information with law enforcement
- Alert your drivers to suspicious activity in the lot
- Stay on high alert for repeat incidents
#5 Install Anti-Theft Devices on Vehicles
To further prevent theft, consider adding one or more anti-theft devices to your fleet vehicles. Two of the most common devices are:
- Locking the gas cap or fuel door
- Anti-siphoning valves
A locked fuel door and gas cap can only be opened with keys. If you decide to add both devices to a fleet vehicle, a thief would have to get through two separate locks to reach the fuel supply—a process that would take time.
While the devices above are relatively simple to install, adding an anti-siphon valve can require slightly more tinkering. These valves ensure that fluids can only travel in one direction; they allow fuel to flow into the tank while preventing it from flowing out 3. Anti-siphon devices may also use a screen to prevent thieves from inserting a hose into the fuel tank.
#6 Park Defensively
While we’ve discussed parking in a secure area, defensive parking is much more than finding a parking spot near a security camera. Drivers can also prevent theft by parking in areas where:
- Their vehicles’ fuel tanks face a public street
- There’s substantial foot traffic nearby
- 24/7 lighting increases visibility
- The fuel tank could be blocked by a wall or barricade
While anti-theft devices and security tools can prevent thieves from stealing your fleet’s fuel, defensive parking is a simple, common-sense method that can protect your vehicles.
#7 Track and Audit Fuel Spending
Like monitoring your lot’s security cameras and checking in with overnight guards, tracking and auditing your fuel spending can help you identify (and respond to) theft events that have already occurred.
Review your credit card or fuel card statement regularly to identify:
- Suspicious activity
- Security alerts
- Attempts to exceed spending caps
- Location discrepancies between routes and fuel stations
Today’s sophisticated fuel card platforms make it easier than ever to set alerts for suspicious activity, create spending reports, and maintain security functions—all of which can help fleet managers and owner-operators identify potential fraudulent activity.
Embrace Tomorrow’s Trucking Technologies with AtoB
Learning how to prevent gas theft can be intimidating for new fleet managers, owner-operators, and professional drivers. But driver education, increased vigilance on the road, innovative fuel tracking tools, and other preventative measures can all decrease potential theft events.
If you’re ready to take complete control of your fleet’s finances—and find tools to prevent fuel theft—turn to AtoB. Our platform combines fuel and fleet expenses in one simple, user-friendly, and transparent platform.
Drivers can use our fuel cards to make vehicle-related purchases anywhere Visa is accepted. But an AtoB fuel card is so much more than a streamlined purchasing tool: Our enhanced security features can help you prevent fraud and fuel theft.
Whether you’re looking for a fuel card you can trust or smarter, faster driver payroll, AtoB has the solutions today’s drivers need to manage their financial tasks.
1 CNN. Police Are Warning Drivers to Protect Against Gas Thefts As Oil Prices Soar. Here’s What They Recommend. https://www.cnn.com/2022/03/11/us/us-canada-gas-price-rise-fuel-thefts/index.html
2 State Farm. Protect Your Vehicle from Gas Theft. http://statefarm.com/simple-insights/auto-and-vehicles/protect-your-vehicle-from-gas-theft
3 Sprinkler School. How Does An Anti-Siphon Valve Work?. https://school.sprinklerwarehouse.com/backflow-devices/how-does-an-anti-siphon-valve-work/