Gordon Balmer: If the new procedure led to just a 10% reduction in drive-offs, it would save the average forecourt £700 a year

The Petrol Retailers Association is claiming victory in its long campaign to allow forecourt operators to access Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) vehicle keeper details electronically in fuel theft cases.

The PRA, which has lobbied for more than five years for a change in the regulations, says it could save retailers thousands of pounds a year if it helps deter drive-offs and no means of payment (NMOP) incidents.

The association said it was informed of the government’s change of heart by minister of state for policing Chris Philp just before Parliament was dissolved ahead of the general election.

The PRA says drive-offs, where a motorist fills up and leaves, cost the industry £60 million a year, with NMOP incidents adding another £40 million.

PRA executive director Gordon Balmer says he raised the issue with Transport Secretary Mark Harper at a meeting on May 1.

Balmer says that, following that meeting, he was told by Philp in writing that, after discussion with the Department for Transport, agreement had been reached to allow retailers to access an electronic service, rather than have to rely on a manual system. This system is already open to parking enforcement operators, where an accredited third party is permitted to apply to the DVLA on behalf of members.

Balmer says plans are still at early stages, and officials are still devising how the system will work and what legal issues might need to be resolved. However, the hope is that a new government will not stand in the way of the change.

“It is fantastic that we have been able to reach this agreement on behalf of members,” said Balmer. “I hope this improvement will deter and reduce the record incidents of drive-offs and NMOP, saving you hundreds of pounds.”

He added that if the new procedure led to just a 10% reduction in drive-offs, it would save the average forecourt £700 a year.