Farmers and crofters are being urged to remain vigilant for potential diesel thefts during the current spell of nationwide fuel shortages.
Rural insurer NFU Mutual says farms are often targeted by thieves during periods of rising fuel prices or shortages, and the company’s rural affairs specialist Rebecca Davidson said it had received increased calls about diesel thefts from farmers in the past week.
The warning comes at a time when many petrol stations are running out of fuel, or limiting the amount customers can buy.
“We are urging farmers to be vigilant and to strengthen security, in case a prolonged shortage sees fuel thieves return to the countryside,” said Ms Davidson.
“Fuel theft not only grinds farm work to a halt but criminals often cause damage getting into tanks and spilling fuel.
“Often the consequence of attack is escape of fuel with the potential for serious pollution problems, which are difficult and extremely costly to clean up and which may present increased fire risks.”
She said NFU Mutual claims data showed thieves continued to steal fuel in large quantities in 2020, despite a year of national lockdowns, with the average cost of diesel theft per incident in the countryside estimated to be £2,120.
To tackle the issue, Ms Davidson said NFU Mutual is investing more than £430,000 in carefully targeted initiatives to tackle rural crime this year.
This includes two trials of connected farms using Long Range Wide Area Network (LoRaWAN) technology and sensors to detect threats and provide alerts and notifications to farmers when there is activity outside a farm’s fuel tank or its levels change.
Ms Davidson said NFU Mutual had also produced security tips to help farmers protect their fuel supplies.
This includes recording the number, location, tank storage capacity and the dates and times when tanks are filled, and to regularly check levels.
Farmers are also advised to fit a fuel tank alarm – such as a remote electronic fuel level gauge which sets off an audible or remotely monitored alarm if the fuel level suddenly drops or falls below a specified level – and to strengthen farmyard and building security.
NFU Mutual advice for protecting fuel in vehicles is to use locking caps, keep tractors and powered machinery locked up and out of sight, and to regularly check fuel gauges for irregularities.
More advice is online at www.nfumutual.co.uk