Drive-offs cost the petrol retailing sector nearly £12 million pounds a year. However the personal cost in terms of frustration at the lack of being able to do anything about a crime that can wreak havoc on your business is not so easy to quantify.
But one man has become so incensed by the sheer cheek of the criminals who perpetrate such acts, that he has made it his life’s work to come up with a solution to crack the problem of drive-offs altogether. He believes he has now succeeded with the launch of Drivestop, which he describes as a “range of solutions to combat vehicle-based theft”.
“Drivestop is now market ready and is prepared to face these culprits head on,” says Jaginder Mudhar – known as Jag. “I want to see the Drivestop system in every forecourt in Britain. I didn’t create Drivestop to make me a millionaire (although that would be nice). I created it for revenge. These criminals put me out of business, and I intend to make it my business to put them out of the business of stealing petrol.”
The path to creating the Drivestop range, which is presented to the market today, has been long and arduous, as there have been many hurdles to overcome. “When I first looked into tackling the problem of drive-offs I was told about CCTV systems – but I didn’t want to simply watch people stealing from me,” says Jag. “I was also told about ANPR, the number plate recognition system. But that costs £25,000 – who can afford that? There were a lot of security companies supplying off-the-shelf systems, but none looking at the particular problem of drive-offs.
“I wanted a system that would trap the culprits on the forecourt – catch them in the act,” says Jag. “I first thought of a ramp, but no ramp is going to stop a determined driver.” Through consultation with all relevant parties – police, fire licensing officer, council, health and safety, environmental protection and so on, he discovered that the system had to be something that was safe and customer friendly; it had to be legal, and had to establish that a person had no intention of paying before driving off. It also had to be reliable and incur minimum damage to the vehicle.
It was a tall order, which is why it has taken six years and a great deal of hard work, testing and modifying designs and materials to fulfill the many complex criteria. Jag’s first idea of a system that traps cars on the forecourts alongside the pump as it deflates the tyres has been modified beyond recognition.
“A big stumbling block was that we didn’t want to deflate the front tyres which would destabilise the car and cause it to crash into a pump or pedestrian. As long as you’ve got steering, brakes and inflated front wheels, the police agree there is no way someone could lose control,” says Jag. “Another problem was the safety of the cashier. We didn’t want to solve one problem and cause another with potential violence through a frustrated drive-off trapped on the forecourt.”
At the heart of the Drivestop system – and what Jag and his partner Mike George have spent many long days and nights working on – is a patented syringe system which, when triggered will inject a ferrule into the tyre wall. The size of this ferrule determines the length of time a tyre takes to deflate – giving the culprit the chance to drive away from the forecourt and be picked up a certain distance away with two deflated rear tyres – and only one spare. Instant tyre repair solutions such as Tyreweld can’t fix it. Importantly the system is no longer alongside the pump, but at the entrance and exit of the forecourt – so much more straightforward to install.
However, ironically the tyre deflating part of the system is unlikely to ever be used. In tests on a Midlands forecourt over the past year, the threat of the system has been enough to scare people away, and reduced the incidence of drive-offs from £4,000 a year to nil. Written warnings on the forecourt warn people of the consequence of driving off without paying. In its full glory, if the cashier sees a potential drive-off he will trigger an effective audio-visual warning – flashing warning red lights (which are normally set at green) at the exit, a loud piercing alarm, accompanied by a loud audio announcement:
“Warning! Your vehicle registration has been recorded and you will be prosecuted.” The warning is sounded three times so the motorist is in no doubt as to what is going on, and the incident is then brought to the attention of everyone in the vicinity – added witnesses, critical for successful prosecution. The ramp is raised meaning the driver must be determined to get away to drive over it. If the driver persists in trying to get away the tyre deflation system will be triggered.
Drivestop is available in several options, starting with the P7 Trafcon system for around £1,800 to the full Drivestop P7 for £8-£10,000. For more details call 0121 505 8086 or see the website www.drivestop.com.