Skip to main content

Rural crime focus: How to reduce the risk of fuel theft

The government announced a reform of red diesel and other rebated biofuels during the Budget in 2020, resulting in the removal of the entitlement to use red diesel from most sectors, except for agriculture, horticulture, forestry and fish farming, rail and non-commercial heating, with effect from 1st April 2022.

The result of this is that users of heavy plant machinery and equipment such as non-road mobile machinery like dumpers, power generators and excavators, predominately but not exclusively from the construction sector, will no longer be able to run on red diesel. This is likely to expose such machinery, and associated onsite fuel storage facilities, to fuel theft as the alternative white diesel can be used in road vehicles without penalty.

Static above ground fuel tanks and mobile bowsers are most at risk of fuel theft, both domestic heating oil tanks and diesel tanks on farms and construction sites.

red diesel 300 x 200 px
Theft techniques include syphoning the fuel into a plastic container or using a fuel transfer pump to steal from larger bulk vehicles, or in the case of browsers, driving off with them when they are out on site.

In addition to causing damage to the tanks themselves by smashing the supply pipes, valves or puncturing the tank, these thieves often create environmental issues when the remaining fuel leaks into the ground, resulting in high clean-up costs.

Vehicles and onsite machinery are also at risk, especially overnight, and fuel theft can lead to costly delays.

Doug Skins from the official police security initiative Secured by Design, said: “The theft of fuel is not only an issue at petrol stations with forecourt drive outs, thieves target domestic heating oil, as well as diesel from remote national infrastructure sites, farms yards and construction sites, where fuel is stored.

“There is comprehensive advice on how you can reduce the risk of falling victim to fuel theft at our website Always remain vigilant and report sightings of suspicious activity in any fields, farmyards and construction sites to the police and rural crime teams”.

Advice around securing fuel, fuel tank security, construction site security and forecourt theft can be found at

red container
Secured by Design (SBD) operates an accreditation scheme on behalf of the UK Police Service for products or services that have met recognised security standards. These products or services – which must be capable of deterring or preventing crime - are known as being of a ‘Police Preferred Specification’. 

There are many hundreds of companies who produce over 7000 individual attack resistant crime prevention products in more than 30 different categories that have met the exacting Police Preferred Specification. This includes doors, windows, external storage, bicycle and motorcycle security, locks and hardware, asset marking, alarms, CCTV, safes, perimeter security products and many others.

SBD is the only way for companies to obtain police recognition for security-related products in the UK.