Anti-Theft technology cuts losses at the pump
September 1, 2015
Fuel theft can result in huge losses for truckstop and travel plaza operators. To help minimize theft, operators are taking a multi-pronged approach, combining technology that can help them monitor inventories and alert them to tampering at the pump with an increased awareness from employees.
“It is the price of admission these days to keep the thieves away from your dispensers,” said Bill Jones, president of Warren Rogers Associates.
Keeping Information Safe
Skimmers—devices that are placed within pumps to capture credit and debit card information—can be among the largest threats. Retailers that are hit with skimming not only lose fuel, they get a chargeback for the purchase, said Darren Schulte, vice president of membership for NATSO.
Operators are adding locks to their pumps and are going a step further with sensors, such as those from Flintloc, that will detect any intrusion into the pump, send a real-time alert to management and shut down the power to the pump.
“We alert the clerk and we will alert the owner or the corporate office all in real time,” said Dave Jacobs, national sales manager for Flintloc.
Stopping Fuel Theft
Because sensors from Flintloc alert operators when someone opens a pump, they prevent thieves from installing skimmers and also stop them from disabling the pulser—a spinning >gear—within the pump that rotates to ring up gallons. Once the pulser is disabled, any gallons that flow from the pump will not be counted, allowing thieves to steal fuel.
Jones said more than 90 percent of fuel thefts take place at a dispenser. Technology from Warren Rogers Associates monitors fuel levels along with transactions, providing another >means to stop theft.
“We can see which dispensers the theft took place from and the amount of theft and the date and time. Our customers will reference that time and date with their own security systems,” Jones said.
Several years ago when Michael Sibley, president of LaPlace Travel Center, experienced fuel theft, he turned to simple padlocks, which he added to the fuel pump cabinets. He said the devices have been effective, but thieves continue to up their efforts. “Most recently we had an issue where a thief did not open the door but actually cut a hole through the face of the dispenser,” he said. “I subsequently added some internal ‘hardware’ to my dispensers, and I look forward for this thief to try again!”
Because theft is bound to happen, Jones recommends operators have proper video monitoring so they can identify the driver or license plate if a theft occurs.
QuikQ is currently testing equipment that will take time-lapse pictures during the time a fuel transaction is open. “We will make it very easy for a carrier that has a question about a fuel ticket to look at time lapse pictures during the time that the truck transaction was open,” said Ernie Betancourt, president of QuikQ. “With one click, a fuel manager that has a question about an invoice can look at pictures taken a minute apart.”
Some locations, including 275 Love’s Travel Stop facilities, are installing RFID fueling technology from QuikQ, which can cut down on theft. “The product was designed for driver convenience, but a side benefit of it is that the RFID reader is reading the tag the entire time the truck is fueling. If the truck leaves the lane, the dispenser turns off,” Betancourt said.
Sibley has always been concerned about drive offs, and to help prevent them, he updated his Trendar system so it would allow trucker card preauthorization and installed a Passport point-of-sale system that allowed for larger preauthorization amounts. Before that, the location had drivers leave their credit card and driver’s license with the cashier, but drivers didn’t like the extra step. Although upgrading the systems was expensive and caused some back-office complexities, Sibley said it was worth it.
Ensuring Complete Deliveries
Jones said operators also have to be concerned with theft from deliveries. “With our system, we are able to precisely measure the amount of delivery within the tank,” Jones said. “We can see the amount of product that has entered the tank, reference what was in there and then reference the bill of lading to say if they’ve been shorted on delivery."
Warren Rogers Associates uses an onsite computer, an automatic tank gauge console and tank gauges—probes that go into each one of the tanks and measures product level and temperature.
Relying on Employees
In addition to technology, operators should emphasize employee awareness, Schulte said. He recommends every shift leader take a quick walk around the location, including the outside, when coming on duty.
“Walk the pumps and see if they’ve been tampered with. Make that a part of your process,” Schulte said. “Look at the equipment. Make sure it is maintained and working properly. If you have three shifts and three people are looking at it every single day, the likelihood of something happening and going unnoticed for a long period of time is decreased.”
Sibley said the human element is key. “Placing security stickers on doors, or buzzers inside may help, it really boils down to collecting in advance, getting card companies to authorize higher amounts, having employees better watch for thieves in the act, and educating the public to be aware to help watch,” he said.
The state of Florida, the Florida Petroleum Council and Florida Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association have joined together to prevent skimming fraud following the discovery of more than 100 skimmers on fuel pumps in the state. The groups have recommended fuel retailers routinely check their pumps for signs of tampering and watch for suspicious activity, such as trucks blocking their view and passengers sitting in parked cars for long periods of time, which could be someone try>ing to remotely access a skimmer’s collected info. They also warn to watch for signs of tampering, such as torn security tape.
- Stop Watch Magazine