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Haulage Pirates - The Rise of Diesel Rustling

Jul 6, 2008
The rising price of fuel has already caused many woes for owner operators and haulage companies in recent months. Protests have been held by lorry drivers around the world, worried about the effect that the spiralling cost of diesel is having on their businesses. Now, people in the haulage industry are finding themselves the targets of a new kind of crime - diesel rustling.

As fuel prices increase, diesel is being nicknamed "liquid gold", and it is unsurprising that thieves have taken to stealing and reselling this valuable resource. With their large fuel tanks and predictable stop off points, lorries are a natural target for this new breed of fuel thieves, and increasing numbers of lorry drivers are returning to their vehicles to find fuel caps forced off and their diesel siphoned away. Many lorries routinely carry over 1000 worth of diesel, and their fuel tanks can be emptied in a matter of minutes.

Where it happens

Diesel rustling first became a problem in rural parts of America, where farm equipment was routinely being emptied of fuel. But now lorry drivers are being targeted, and it is becoming much more widespread on busy haulage routes around the world. Thefts can occur at petrol stations and rest stops when a lorry driver is on the road, but haulage companies have also reported diesel rustlers breaking into delivery yards and car parks at night. In the UK, there have been reports of persistent thefts in Cambridgeshire and East Surrey. Abroad, particular problems have been reported in Spain, and anyone on a haulage job in this part of Europe needs to be especially cautious.

What precautions to take

Diesel rustling is a hard crime to guard against, with some gangs having been known to steal diesel even when a lorry driver is asleep in his cab. However, there are a number of precautions that concerned owner operators can take in order to protect their vehicles.

Protect your fuel: Always lock your fuel cap. You may want to invest in an alarm system or anti-siphoning device for your fuel tank to make it much harder for thieves to get in to your fuel tank. Be warned, however - some gangs have been known to puncture the fuel tank if the cap is especially well protected.

Park carefully: Lorry drivers are advised to park "tank to tank" with other lorries to make it much harder to access the fuel tank.

Dye your diesel: You may want to consider dying your diesel. This can not only deter thieves, it can also make the diesel easier for police to trace if it is stolen.

Travel light: Don't travel with a full tank unless you have to, so you stand to lose less if your diesel is stolen.

Talk to others: Diesel rustlers are not opportunistic thieves. They are typically well organised gangs that have particular routes and areas that they will target. Make sure you keep in touch with your fellow lorry drivers, and if a particular route or rest stop becomes well known for diesel rustling, avoid it!
About the Author
Lyall Cresswell is the Managing Director for the Transport Exchange Group. Haulage Exchange, their freight exchange for the 7.5 tonne and above market, offers an independent environment for its members to exchange owner operator and haulage jobs.
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