Gordon Balmer

The PRA is calling for parity with the car parking industry in a bid to speed up the reporting of fuel theft.

Currently, any forecourt owner who has been a victim of a drive-off or no means of payment incident has to fill in a V888 form manually and collect a number of associated documents.

Gordon Balmer, executive director of the PRA, said: “Sometimes this can be as many as 11 pages of paper. They then have to write a cheque or get a postal order for £2.50 and send it all to the DVLA in Swansea.

“Once received at Swansea, the envelope has to be opened, documents read, details of the vehicle involved verified, another form has to be filled out, the cheque or postal order has to be cashed and then forms are sent back to the forecourt. This all takes time.

“Compare this to the car parking industry where they can generate a fine in one day, because they have access to ANPR data. That is what we want for our industry.”

Balmer says the argument from the DVLA is that they have millions of instances of car parking infringements but forecourt fuel theft ‘only’ accounts for hundreds of thousands of incidents.

“There has been an explosion in incidents of fuel theft on forecourts. BOSS reports that fuel theft costs each filling station an estimated average of £10,500 per year, totalling £88m annually. We need a 21st century system to report all this.”

The PRA’s call for change comes as Top 50 Indie ‘Bubbling Under’ firm Plaistow Broadway Filling Stations has had to factor drive-offs into its budget for the first time. Director Daniel Panormo told Forecourt Trader: “We were doing our forecasting earlier this week and spoke about drive-offs. They used to occur only occasionally but now that they are much more regular we have had to include then in our forecasting. It shouldn’t be like this but it is as there is no real deterrent.”

Meanwhile, Balmer believes many incidents of fuel theft go unreported meaning the actual loss to the industry is much higher.

The car parking industry fine-generating system works through an accredited trade association, where everything is issued through them. The PRA has offered to work with the DVLA to arrive at a similar scheme.

“Our members operate on thin margins in a highly competitive market. They can’t be expected to shoulder the cost of fuel thefts on top of everything else. I have urged the Minister responsible to take decisive action in addressing the alarming surge in fuel thefts affecting both our members and the wider fuel retailing sector.

“Giving us access to a 21st century system that is fit for purpose is all we are asking for.”