Leading insurer NFU Mutual is warning farmers and rural homeowners that high fuel prices are driving a surge in diesel and heating oil thefts.
Rebecca Davidson, rural affairs specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “Thieves steal whatever they can get their hands on and sell on for a profit – and high diesel and heating oil prices mean there is a growing black market for stolen fuel.
“Fuel thieves are scouring the countryside looking for farm fuel tanks, parked vehicles and even home heating oil tanks which they can empty and sell on the contents. We’ve also seen claims rising at commercial premises in North East England with police issuing security warnings.
“It’s a crime which often leaves a trail of destruction as thieves will smash valves and even drill into tanks leading to pollution as any remaining fuel seeps into the ground. Our claims data shows that the average cost of a diesel theft claim was £2,120 last year.
“Long winter nights and the festive season with many people’s work and domestic routines disrupted provides opportunities for thieves to operate unseen – so we’re advising anyone with stored fuel to check security measures and keep a lookout for suspicious activity.”
As the insurer for three quarters of the UK’s farmers, NFU Mutual has invested £430,000 in carefully targeted security initiatives this year. This includes sponsoring two trials of connected farms using LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network) technology and sensors to detect threats and provide alerts and notifications when there is activity outside and fuel tank levels change.
NFU Mutual fuel tank security checklist
Tank, contents and location
- Record the number, location, tank storage capacity and the date/times when tanks are filled and regularly check levels.
- Where possible locate the tank where it can be viewed from the house. Fuel tanks located away from buildings or dwellings are more vulnerable if they can’t be seen by occupants.
- Ideally tanks should be within an enclosed compound with secured access.
- Fit a fuel tank alarm to notify you of an attack on fuel tanks. Remote electronic fuel level gauges will set off an audible or monitored alarm if the fuel level in the tank suddenly drops or falls below a defined level.
- Keep field and farmyard gates closed and locked, and block exit points that aren’t used.
- Activate intruder alarm systems, which may have a local sounder or remotely monitored signalling.
- Install security lighting to illuminate any suspicious activity.
Vehicles and machinery
- Use locking fuel tank caps.
- Keep tractors and powered machinery locked up and out of sight from public roads and footpaths when not in use to prevent thieves draining their fuel tanks.
- Check your fuel gauge is not showing irregularities in fuel levels.