By Bill Hudgins
With the price of diesel still at ulcer-causing levels, it’s no surprise that fuel thieves continue to prey on truckers at truck stops, terminals, even at home. The more ambitious and bolder ones have hijacked tankers and even outfitted pickups with tanks and ripped off service stations. Some of them are fellow truckers stealing motion lotion to keep going; others are just scumbag bandits hoping to make a quick buck selling purloined petroleum at “discount.”
Poke around on the Internet and you will see more than one outraged writer demanding that fuel filchers be treated like Old West horse thieves – hang ’em high. Although I think lynching is way too harsh for ripping off a tank of diesel, I can understand the emotion: That tank of diesel could be the difference between food on the table and empty pockets. I can go hungry for a day, but when you start messing with my kids …
However, I don’t have a problem with deterrence that stops short of permanently maiming these perps. So I asked my friend and ace gearjammer Rufus Sideswipe how he would handle it.
Rufus said he consulted with DeWayne, his technologically gifted distant cousin. Rufus said he believes that a good-quality locking cap can discourage most fuel felons simply because it delays them and makes their larceny more obvious. He also uses an anti-siphon device as a backup to the locked cap.
Rufus tries to park in well-lighted slots near the truck stop, instead of the quieter, darker and sketchier spots out back. And because he’s an owner-operator, he sometimes takes along his guard Chihuahua, “Gomez,” who has learned to react instantly if anything touches the vintage Cornbinder.
But DeWayne thinks locking fuel caps and such are boring, so he came up with an array of electronic solutions that are considerably more fun:
• Reasoning that your average fuel rustler is pretty nervous, DeWayne wired up a simple infrared sensor from an automatic paper towel dispenser to an inexpensive sound system. When the alarm is set, anyone who puts a hand near the fuel cap sets off the sound system.
For his experiments, DeWayne set it to blare Chuck Norris as “Walker: Texas Ranger” saying “I don’t think you want to do that;” Dirty Harry growling, “Well punk, do ya feel lucky;” Cleavon Little as the sheriff in “Blazing Saddles” screeching “Oooh! He’p me, he’p me! Somebody he’p me;” Mandy Patinkin from “The Princess Bride” saying “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You stole my fuel, now prepare to die;” and President George W. Bush declaring “Bring it on!”
• Amping up the deterrence level, DeWayne also wired the same sensor to respond if the cap is opened. When tripped, the device swings out a mechanical arm holding a cigarette lighter over the open tank. As the device clicks the lighter, a voice intones “4, 3, 2 ...”
• After thinking that one over, DeWayne decided to offer a “lite” version – a spotlight comes on while the speaker plays William Shatner singing “You Light Up My Life.” Of course, you can choose your own sound effects for any of these and upload them, just like uploading ringtones to a phone.
• A variation on the mechanical arm device pops the cab door open very quickly, which would likely slam the unwary perp in the head and render him unconscious. It then shuts and relocks the door and sets off an alarm to alert the driver. All of these come with an optional webcam or digital camera to photograph the bad guy.
• OK, let’s say the perp isn’t scared off by sound effects or spotlights or even being almost punched out by the cab door. As a backup, DeWayne installed a small high-pressure tank that can spray the perp with your choice of pond-scum perfume – say, skunk, rotten fish, barf, etc. A cheap, really rank knockoff perfume such as Channel No. 19 will work too – just imagine the reception the perp will get in the showers.
Bill Hudgins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org