Getting Ahead of Fuel Theft – Fuel theft is a major problem for convenience stores and fleets, but it’s also an issue that can be hard to navigate. The biggest challenge? Unpredictability.
Fuel thieves are constantly finding new ways to outsmart protective best practices—it’s an ongoing problem that has been around since the beginning of time.
But there is hope! You can stay ahead of fuel theft issues by implementing systems to overhaul operations and harden core infrastructure. In this blog, you’ll learn actionable recommendations for how to identify and prevent fuel theft at your organization and is particularly helpful for leadership at convenience stores and in the fleet space.
The key is to increase resiliency and awareness through a combination of data, analytics, communication, proactive measures, and education.
Tactical Steps to Get Ahead of Fuel Theft
Fuel theft is a problem that has been plaguing companies for years. It’s also a problem that’s not going away any time soon. Thieves and fraudsters are smart, and they’re continually seeking ways to outsmart preventative measures. That means development of new technologies, recruiting more people into criminal syndicates, and sometimes coordinating efforts within the inside of a company. For these reasons, it’s unrealistic to root out the issue of fuel theft entirely.
But companies can get ahead of the problem to prevent losses by taking the following steps:
- Build a More Granular Accounting Picture
- Establish Relationships with Law Enforcement
- Standardize Security and Monitoring Protocols
- Implement a Digital Analytics System
- Bridge Gaps with Vendors
- Prioritize Staff Education
Build a More Granular Accounting Picture
ANALYSIS OF A LOSS IS CRUCIAL FOR UNCOVERING ILLICIT ACTIVITY
For convenience stores and fleets alike, fuel theft is ultimately a finance and inventory reconciliation issue. Let’s say that a company purchases a billion gallons of gasoline for thousands of locations with 10,000 gallons unaccounted for.
Finance teams may attribute the delta to a rounding error — or perhaps the supplier did not provide the correct amount of fuel. With this aggregate level picture, it’s difficult to identify the precise reason for fuel loss.
One valuable step that teams can take is to go deeper. What do month over- month trends look like? Do losses correlate with specific locations or geographies? Are affected locations in regions with known fuel theft incidences?
Fuel loss happens for a variety of reasons. Without an understanding of these reasons, however, fuel theft has the potential to go undetected. In the worst case scenarios, it can be part of an inside job. When there is loss on a balance sheet, it’s important for finance and inventory reconciliation teams to push an investigation into why. This analysis is crucial for uncovering illicit activity beneath the surface.
Establish Relationships with Law Enforcement
COMMUNITY-BASED GROUPS CAN PROVIDE AN ADDED LEVEL OF SECURITY IN YOUR EFFORTS TO BEAT FUEL THEFT.
Businesses can reduce the risk of internal crime by working with law enforcement. By proactively reaching out and building an open line of communication with law enforcement agencies, companies can take steps to prevent and mitigate the potential criminal activity. This is especially important in today’s climate, where there is an increased demand on law enforcement agencies to keep up with more crime than they have resources to fight.
Community-based groups can provide an added level of security in an otherwise overwhelmed justice system. These mechanisms, however, are unlikely to defend against potential inside jobs.
Standardize Security and Monitoring Protocols
YOU NEED AN AUDITABLE, ENFORCEABLE FRAMEWORK FOR ADDRESSING SECURITY ISSUES BEFORE YOU HAVE A PROBLEM.
Security is critical for any business, and for retail stores in particular. In fact, it’s one of the top concerns for store owners. But what about the security measures that are already in place? Are they effective? Do they meet your needs?
The answer may surprise you. Many businesses have gaps in their security protocols — gaps that could be preventing them from achieving their potential. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to ensure that you’re protected and prepared for anything.
- Locking down dispensers
- Locking down tanks
- Implementing card reader systems
- After-hours monitoring systems
Implement a Digital Analytics System
With the right digital analytics system, you can look at your data and see exactly what’s happening in real time. That means you can catch problems before they become big problems—and keep your business running smoothly.
Many companies still use spreadsheets and hard files to manage their data. These are great tools for making quick decisions, but they don’t allow you to perform analyses at the pace needed to pinpoint—and stop—the sources of loss. With a comprehensive digital analytics solution, stakeholders can work together more efficiently to understand anomalies. It’s about pulling information together and then sharing those insights with personnel to examine operations with precision.
One benefit of a digital analytics system is the ability to monitor sites without being physically present. Companies can monitor electric systems, ensure that equipment is performing effectively, and stay on top of sensor alerts, remotely.
Bridge Gaps with Vendors
Often, it’s a third-party company that’s responsible for managing a company’s fuel inventory. These vendors are well-aware of fuel theft; however, they are overseeing complex processes across multiple companies. Anomaly detection may be challenging given the lack of uniformity across systems. For instance, EMS/Titan Cloud recently worked with a company that utilized six different approaches to retrieving information from data. It was a cumbersome and antiquated process. The company used EMS/Titan Cloud to install and manage equipment end-to-end.
Prioritize Staff Education
With fuel theft on the rise, it’s important to keep staff in the loop.
The thought of fuel theft is unlikely to cross an employee’s mind until after an incident takes place. That’s why it’s important for executive teams to keep staff in the loop. For convenience store managers, a few simple measures can help identify theft early on:
- Are certain customers taking unusually long periods of time at the pump but paying small bills?
- What protocols should staff follow after noticing suspicious activity?
- What are some warning signs for staff to watch?
Above all, it’s important to establish protocols for staff to protect their safety. Where there is illicit activity, there is also the potential for violence. In no situation should companies put their staff in danger.
Don’t let fuel theft get the best of your company!
By taking a bird’s eye approach to rooting out the problem from occurring in the first place, companies can take care of problems before they occur. Fighting individual theft incidences and tactics can help—but ultimately, bad actors continually find new ways to outsmart security measures.
Staying ahead of illicit activity means focusing on the basics. Companies will benefit from hardening core infrastructure and gaining a deeper understanding into the problem.
Properly monitoring your fuel loss by engaging effective fuel inventory management can be the difference between running a successful operation or not. This is why many industries rely on Wetstock/Fuel Monitoring solutions like Fuelsuite and Greenscan. Fuelsuite is a comprehensive fuel monitoring solution that puts the magnifying glass on fuel reconciliation. By digitally transforming your station, you will win the fight against fraud and fuel theft every time.
To speak to EMS about your fuel inventory management or about our leading fuel management system Fuelsuite, get in touch.