By Jeff Barker
As fuel prices go higher, so does the occurrence of fuel theft.
Anyone who has ever owned a truck will tell you that fuel is likely the single biggest operating expense. It’s already bad enough that the freight rates don’t ever seem to keep up with the rising fuel costs, but unfortunately there are some scumbags nearly everywhere who will attempt to reduce their own operating costs by striking gold at the expense of others.
Fortunately, there are good habits to get into as well as a few aftermarket add-on devices that can help you prevent this from taking place.
When and where to fuel
Many of us may not think about it often, but when we’re at the fuel island topping off our tanks some cheap freight haulers with ill intent are likely to be hanging around – watching and waiting for us to park our trucks and leave them unattended for a short period of time.
If you decide to go inside the truck stop to take a shower or eat at a sit-down restaurant, that will give them just enough time to suck your tanks dry before you return. In fact, a few of those bastards have been seen with electric siphon pumps in their side boxes that are capable of completely drawing out a full 150-gallon tank of fuel within 10 to 15 minutes.
It’s best to avoid parking and leaving the truck unattended for a while. Fuel your truck when you begin your day of driving and immediately before you leave. That way, when you park for your 10-hour rest period and some idiot decides to remove your caps and look in your tanks, there will be less of a temptation for them to do anything.
Also, if you know your truck will be unattended for awhile – during time off at home, taking a break at a hotel, or leaving it at a repair shop, for example – make it a point to leave it there with as little fuel as possible. But it would be wise to remind yourself to fuel up when you go back to work to save yourself from any self-induced embarrassment of running out of fuel.
Fuel theft prevention devices
Locking fuel caps have been around for many years and are normally good visual deterrents for would-be fuel thieves. The downside is that they are very expensive to buy, not to mention that during the cold winter the locks are prone to freezing to the point where the cap can’t be unlocked for removal.
Even locks with covers on them are prone to this, as condensation forms in the lock because of the temperature differences between the inside of the tank being kept warm by the hot return fuel from the engine and the cold ambient air. This can prove quite frustrating when it comes time to fuel up and you can’t get the caps off.
Anti-siphon screens came around a few years ago and are a cheaper alternative to the locking fuel caps. The downside to these devices is that if you’re in a situation where you need to siphon fuel out for your own purpose – like filling up a new fuel filter when you need to replace one at roadside, adding fuel to a reefer unit tank when it’s close to empty, or helping out someone else who ran out of fuel – it will be next to impossible to do so. Anti-siphon screens are designed to not be removed once installed; otherwise, their purpose could easily be defeated by someone wanting your fuel more than you do. LL
Jeff Barker is an OOIDA member and a former certified diesel mechanic. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.