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High Diesel Fuel Prices Attracting Fuel Thieves

July 3, 2008

The soaring price of diesel fuel has hurt the trucking industry in many ways, but the high costs are resulting in another new trend: diesel fuel theft.

According to the Arizona Republic, thieves are going after big tractor-trailer trucks that carry hundreds of gallons of valuable diesel fuel.Diesel averages $4.80 nationally, about 70 cents more per gallon than regular unleaded gasoline, according to AAA. That makes the 300 gallons of diesel fuel in some big rigs' tanks a lucrative target. Ten years ago, when diesel averaged $1.04 a gallon, many trucking companies considered fuel theft simply a nuisance. Then, 300 gallons of stolen fuel amounted to a loss of a little more than $300. Now, it’s more than $1,400.


Trucking companies say thieves sometimes use high-pressure pumps to drain the large tanks quickly while truckers sleep. Or they use an old-fashioned siphon hose. A driver may never hear a tank being drained, and the thieves aren’t around long, Williams said.In some cases, truckers themselves are stealing fuel.

Recent price spikes have sparked thefts around the country:

  • In Pennsylvania, thieves siphoned diesel out of a gas station’s underground storage tanks using a pickup truck and a trailer with a trap door.
  • In Texas, a thief stole more than 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel from two gas stations during a single day in March.
  • In Ohio, a man was charged with felony theft of more than $600 in fuel. He was accused of pulling his truck alongside another big rig and stealing diesel as the trucker slept.--In Beaufort County, SC, an employee has been accused of stealing more than $35,000 in diesel fuel from county-owned pumps.
  • In Foley, Ala, a farmer said his tractor was “topped off” with diesel on a Saturday at 5 p.m. On the following Monday morning, however, he discovered the amount of diesel in the tractor was down to 102 gallons, a loss of approximately 55 gallons.
  • And in Delaware County, Ohio, crooks have stolen more than 500 gallons of diesel fuel from a Lewis Center gas station over the last few months.
  • The companies aren’t saying publicly what steps they are taking to prevent further theft, but one company is considering buying locking gas caps.
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