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Don’t fall foul of fuel thieves

By Adrian Simmonds
Senior Risk Manager

White diesel theft is on the increase. Don’t be a victim.

From 1st April 2022 ‘red’ diesel, used for ‘off-road’ applications, will only be permitted for agricultural use, rail transport and non-commercial heating. All other applications, such as site-based mobile plant and commercial heating, will be required to use ‘white’ diesel, which carries the full road tax value for use on regular national roads. The purpose is to help with the Government’s drive towards net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

If you’re unsure of the difference between ‘’red’ and ‘white’ diesel, it is simply that some white diesel has a red dye added to identify the fuel as attracting a significant tax rebate for non-road use. The current tax level for white diesel is c.58p/litre whereas the rebate for red diesel means it is taxed at c.11p/litre, almost 47p per litre of savings on tax. For a business that's a heavy diesel user, the new rules could translate into significant additional cost.

The use of white diesel for mobile plant and equipment in a number of industrial and commercial sectors such as construction, quarrying, landfill and waste recycling is likely to result in many millions of pounds of extra cost. The knock-on effect will almost certainly be higher costs to build schools, hospitals, housing, industrial and commercial premises. It will also affect the selling price of materials and products to industry and the general public due to increased transportation costs across the supply chain.

Increased diesel theft

For the reasons above, the issue of white diesel theft has come onto the radar.

As a leading business insurer, we’re already seeing an increase in diesel theft cases being reported – both for red and white diesel - and during the theft, the pump feed pipes are often cut, which is leading to environmental contamination that can be difficult to clean up.

The closer we get to April the more likely it is that unguarded and unsecured diesel will be targeted by thieves. Poorly guarded construction sites, industrial and commercial premises are easy pickings, as are hotels, sports clubs and similar premises in rural areas. Remotely located businesses often store diesel fuel in bulk - for heating, emergency generators or for ride-on machinery - and often have little security.

If this is you, then it’s time to think about your security measures as well as how you transition from red to white diesel without falling foul of the 1st April compliance date. The following actions are recommended:

  • Consider how you can stop intruders getting easy access to the fuel you store. Install stronger fencing and gates to protect the fuel tanks; also, fit stronger padlocks on access gates, the fuel tank lids and fuel dispensing pumps.
  • Fit wired or Wi-Fi camera systems with motion detection activation to cover your fuel tanks and the access routes to them. Set them up to sound alarms and to send an alert to your mobile phone so that you can detect intruders before they get to the fuel tanks and to warn them off.
  • Consider using a smart fuel level and usage monitoring system available from several suppliers. These can detect unusual drops in fuel levels - indicating a leak or when fuel thieves are emptying a tank. The system would then raise an alarm at a central monitoring station and send an alert to your mobile phone and email address.
  • Run down your red diesel stores so you have none left by 1st April. You might need to be able to evidence that you have no red diesel in your tanks, so make sure the emptied tanks are cleaned thoroughly before refilling them with white diesel, to avoid any contamination of the white diesel that could make it look like you might still have red diesel in the tank.

You can find more information on how to prepare for the changes to rebated fuel on the Gov.UK website here.

Risk management services for QBE customers

QBE helps businesses build resilience through risk management and insurance.

Depending upon the size and complexity of the business needs, QBE customers can access a wide range of risk management services, self-assessment questionnaires and risk management toolkits which are focused on the key causes of claims, and on generating action plans for improved outcomes - including protecting employees, reducing risk and making claims less likely. You can find out more about how QBE helps businesses to manage risk here.

Need to claim? Report it early

Finally, a reminder that if you have an incident and need to make an insurance claim, it’s important that you report it as soon as possible, ideally the same day. Reporting a claim early can save time and help you to receive any claim payments faster, as well as allowing us to help mitigate the cost of third-party claims.