A recent spike in drive-offs from forecourts has prompted renewed interest in unmanned fuel stations, according to Metro Security, which provides technology that integrates CCTV and ANPR for both kiosk-driven and ‘pay-at-the-pump’ service areas.

The BOSS (British Oil Security Syndicate) crime index recorded its biggest ever rate of non-payment in the third quarter of 2017, meaning that the average annual cost to a site before any recovery was £1,025.

“We have seen a lot of interest in the pay at pump solutions where we monitor re-fuelling, and even talk to drivers 24/7, remotely,” said Trevor Wallace, managing director of Metro.

“Obviously, there is a trade-off with potential loss food and other sales, but many customers are doing the maths in terms of the locations and levels of footfall, and are coming to the conclusions that preventing the fraud is better than trying to re-coup the loss.

“We are agnostic in this debate as we provide solutions for both, but there is an understandable comfort from knowing that the fuel cannot be dispensed without it being paid for. There is not only the loss of the fuel, but also the lost time and wasted police hours, which is why BOSS launched its Payment Watch scheme,” said Wallace.

Payment Watch allows forecourt operators to chase NMOP (no means of payment) customers to clear their debts without involving the police. During a 12-month trial, BOSS estimated 4,600 police hours had been saved.

Building on this, Mars, (Metro Analytic Retail Solution) – which works with both manned and unmanned forecourts – also aims to dent criminal profits and reduce the number of police call outs.

According to BOSS, drive-offs cost forecourt retailers more than £20m a year, and there is a persistent percentage of incidents where payment is never retrieved or offenders taken to task.

Mars, an integrated technology that links the pumps to CCTV and ANPR, and can be activated remotely to provide high-quality evidence and intelligence of both malicious and non-malicious customer and staff behaviours, all at the push of a button or click of a mouse.

In manned stations, remote monitoring based on intelligence-led investigations post event also prevents the potential for conflict with the forecourt retail staff, another key feature as violence against retail staff has doubled in the past 12 months.

According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) six in every 1,000 retail staff has been the subject of violence and aggression in the last 12 months, figures verified by the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) and shop workers union USDAW.

Metro says trials have shown six-figure performance improvements with estate roll-outs of Mars. Although it has been introduced as a crime-reducing solution, fuel company customers have also seen efficiency savings by reducing refueling times.

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