Fuel Theft Is a Growing Concern for South African Fleets

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Fuel theft is a considerable threat and criminal act that affects a multitude of industries such as mining, agriculture, construction, logistics and general transport throughout South Africa, and the world. With fuel consumption being one of the biggest and most important operational costs for any vehicle fleet company, the impact can be worsened when coupled with the rising petrol and diesel costs.

Some of the often overlooked causes of exorbitant annual petrol or diesels costs may simply be a result of irresponsible driving habits, poor vehicle maintenance, bad road conditions and quality, or ineffective fuel management. As a business owner or fleet manager, gaining a clear understanding when, why and how fuel is going missing is key to preventing further losses and creating a more secure and effective fuel management system.

With traditional fuel management systems and manual reporting procedures unable to keep up with the latest technological innovations and growth in the on-demand economy, fleet owners and managers had to adapt to a variety of telematic tools and digital services to help improve their fuel monitoring and management systems.

The first step in combating the scourge of fuel theft is to be aware of how it happens. Let’s take a look at some of the most common causes of fuel theft, loss, and mismanagement.

Common Fuel Theft Methods

Bad Fuel Storage Security

Most fleet companies, commonly, store large quantities of petrol and diesel in an onsite or offsite storage facility. The storage required for the amount of fuel used by vehicle fleets is a daunting and risky proposition for fleet owners. Fuel theft becomes a much greater concern when fleet companies have poor fuel storage security and procedures.

False or Mistaken Reporting on Fuel Consumption

The biggest problem with traditional or manual logging systems is that false information can be easily entered and recorded to coverup fuel theft, mistakes, or incompetence. Fuel is a very valuable commodity and can tempt drivers to fill other vehicles, misreport fuel consumption, hide poor driving behaviour or conceal their lucrative and deceitful fuel theft.

Syphoning Fuel Out of the Tank

Many modern vehicles have protective measures to prevent the old-fashioned ways of syphoning fuel out of their tanks. Although, a pipe and container are much less effective these days, there are still means by which criminals and untrustworthy vehicle operators can pump fuel out of a tank. These measures are often destructive to the vehicle and create additional maintenance costs for fixing broken fuel feeding systems.

Drivers or Petrol Attendants Underfilling Tanks

For many years, receipts, logbooks, and different fuel metrics were kept and compiled manually. Without effective fuel surveillance and digital monitoring, it is easy to exploit manual fuel management systems and steal fuel. Video, GPS, and other vehicle telematics have been designed to support and enable fuel management systems to prevent the underfilling of fuel tanks, misreporting of fuel usage or diverting of fuel sources.

Odometer Tampering 

Odometer tampering is a real concern for fleet companies in South Africa. Older car models have simple computing that is easily tampered with and, even, later models have some exceptions in their onboard systems that allow for odometer tampering. Reducing, increasing or pausing the mileage on a fleet vehicle is an effective way to hide fuel theft. For example, if the vehicle has travelled more kilometres, it makes sense that fuel consumption is higher than expected.

How to Secure Your Fuel

Fuel theft is a serious concern for South African fleet companies and can cause huge losses over time. It is critical the owners and managers are aware of the methods used by criminals and the tools that are available to prevent them.

Here are a few steps you can take to reduce the risk of fuel theft in your business:

Implement a fuel management system

A fuel management system can be a vital tool to identify where and when fuel theft is occurring, especially when there may be multiple mobile or static tanks located out of site. A comprehensive fuel management system should enable the fleet manager to accurately record fuel levels, fuel usage, GPS tracking of vehicle movements, and provide alerts when fuel is being removed from the tank.

Keep static tanks visible where possible

Where possible, fleet managers should place their static tanks where it can be viewed from a building and where natural surveillance can be maximized. If fuel tanks are located too far away from buildings or are obstructed from view, they are more susceptible to theft.

Manage and monitor access to static fuel tanks

Whether you are working in agriculture, logistics, construction, or mining, you should manage access to your static fuel tanks by only allowing certain staff members access to it. This can be done by adding fencing or access control points around the static fuel tanks.

Keep your vehicles secure

When your fleet is unable to return to the lot in the evening, drivers should be sure to secure the vehicle correctly but locking the cab or the cargo area and if applicable lock the fuel tank cap with a lock or anti-syphoning device.

Secure your fleet in parking

Other security measures should be considered by fleet managers when securing your vehicles when not in action, such as installing motion detection lighting, installing CCTV cameras on site, securing gates with locks and installing alarms.

For more information on what you can do to prevent fuel theft, take a look at A Few Tips for Preventing Fuel Theft in Your Fleet.


Modern fuel management systems are designed with vehicle fleet companies and their respective industries in mind. If you are looking for the latest in fuel management solutions or are wanting to integrate a complete fleet management systems into your larger fleet operations, speak to one of our expert consultants at Landmark Tracking.