Only 5% of drive-offs had to be reported to police during a trial of a new loss recovery service by BOSS, the British Oil Security Syndicate.

During the year-long trial, involving several thousand drive-off incidents, BOSS pro-actively pursuing the registered keepers of vehicles reported as driving off without making payment for fuel.

Following receipt of a drive-off report from a forecourt retailer BOSS initiated its new recovery strategy and during the survey period it reported 77.9% of incidents were subsequently fully paid by the motorist, without referring the incident to the police.

During the 12-month trial BOSS estimates that the new initiative has saved 4,600 police officer hours.

Analysis of the reports also showed that two thirds of drive-off incidents are the result of a failure to pay in-store and only one third of drive-offs are the result of vehicles driving away from the pump without making any attempt to pay for the fuel.

Drive-off incidents cost forecourt retailers more than £20m a year and the trial has analysed drive-off incidents in two ways; first, drivers filling up, making no attempt to pay and then driving off; and second where drivers draw fuel, enter the store and then leave without paying for their fuel.

The BOSS survey found that 67.3% of incidents were recorded as a failure to pay in-store, while 32.7% of incidents involved a vehicle drawing fuel and driving off without making any attempt to pay.

Kevin Eastwood, executive director at BOSS, said: “There may be many reasons why drivers fail to pay for fuel, a mistake or deliberate action, but we’re finding police tend to treat in-store drive-offs as a civil offence and are therefore not treating these incidents as a crime, so take no action.

“What’s exciting about this new BOSS drive-off initiative is that it’s the industry taking control of reporting and recovering losses. During the trial only 5% of incidents have had to be reported to the police, which saves the police a huge amount of time. We’re planning to make the initiative available to police forces across the country so that both police and retailers can benefit.”