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Be on the Lookout: How to Spot a Fuel Thief


By: Richard G.

As a regulatory compliance officer for the state of Oregon, I see drivers involved in a bit of trouble now and again; some of the time it comes in spurts.  Some drivers and companies avoid my state during the winter months and progress our way in spring time. One such group, are those who are clearly involved in fuel theft.

I spend many of my days, when not engaged in other duties, performing truck inspections. I am a little unique in this arena as I drove trucks, dispatched and worked as a fleet manager for many years prior to this job. This experience has made me a driver advocate. I am also very sympathetic to owner operators. Growing up I watched my Dad leave every week and could hardly wait for him to come home, so I know this industry from all sides.
No one person does more to hurt this industry than a fuel thief. I am writing this letter to advise drivers of what to look for.

I am not sure how many people in this industry are even aware of how common fuel theft is. These criminals steal from owner operators and major carriers but they also steal from fueling stations, and we all need to know what to be on the lookout for. They will almost always have the same things on their trucks–  Secondary fuel tanks that are not plumbed under the refer unit, an electric pump, and I mean a big one with 50-100ft of hose.

What I don’t think most people have seen is the pump reader device or pulser. This device is something like what the weights and measures agencies use to test pumps for accuracy. This device is different in that it has a gear reduction system that sends a signal to the pump showing that it is pumping about 1 in every 100 gallons actually pumped.

Law enforcement agencies that catch these criminals when they are in other states have their hands tied, as it may not be clear if a crime has been committed in that state.

Just recently such an incident took place where we caught a driver with this set up during an inspection. The device was treated something like a burglary tool and confiscated but the driver himself, totally unrepentant and brash, was able to drive off after his OOS time was up. We in this industry have to come together on this as it hurts us all.

If you have ever wondered how these guys afford to haul freight so cheap, know you know. It lowers the price of freight and they have a leg up on all the honest, hardworking people in this industry. Drivers have the best chance to put a stop to this since it’s your eyes that are most likely to catch them in the act. If you have to ask why, you should help just remember it’s the food off your family’s plate that they are living off of.


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