We have to have a stricter attitude towards diesel thefts

By: Thomas Ström 6/14/19

In the hauler industry in Sweden, there is a lot of talk about cabotage regulations, penalties, etc. However, one thing is rarely noticed – the diesel thefts. Given that the fuel price is now at record-high levels, it feels important to describe the problem.

After conversations with some of the Swedish haulers driving for us at NTEX, it is apparent that this is a very common and widespread issue. Of the cars driving for NTEX, there is almost one car being emptied for diesel every week.

We are talking about organized diesel thieves driving around with a small truck and a large tank on the truck bed. Once they have identified a vehicle that no one is supervising, they break the tank cap and then use high-capacity pumps that can empty a tank of 600-700 liters under a few minutes. In cases where the haulers have invested in covering the tank with some security or special locks, the thieves just break it by making holes in the tank.

Yet, it does not stop there. On the occasion when something goes wrong and large amounts of diesel leak out on the site, the owner of the vehicle is responsible for the cleanup. Well, more correctly – a rather high insurance fee. The insurance company pays for the remaining costs.

The police are aware of what is happening but cannot do anything. Sometimes it happens that the diesel thieves are caught red-handed, but after a few hours, they are out again. The reason? The crime is dismissed due to lack of evidence! With this in mind, I can understand that some haulers ignore reporting to the police. It takes too much time and effort and gives back way too little.

So what do the thieves do with the stolen diesel? In several cases, they re-sell it to sub-prices – sometimes half the price – to less scrupulous haulers. Alternatively, they sell the diesel abroad. This is the reason why today it is possible to buy cheap transports for 50-60 SEK per mile, which is supposed to cover costs for expensive cars, fuels and drivers.

Another distinct market is the one where foreign haulers send their drivers cash that should suffice for refueling for the trip to and from Sweden. A full tank of 700 liters for 8 SEK per liter instead of 16 SEK per liter means 5 600 SEK right down the driver's own pocket, which can correspond to almost a whole month's salary in their native country.

Do I need to tell you that people in the industry are laughing at us in the rest of Europe? We have to get tougher and set examples. This cannot go on.

Thomas Ström