As if the UK's transport and haulage industries haven't got enough to cope with, they now face a serious and costly new threat - fuel theft.
Siphoning diesel from lorries is rife at the moment, with the number of reported crimes soaring.
A survey by the RHA, Road Haulage Association, found that almost 60 per cent of those polled had been victims of fuel theft in the past 12 months.
Chrys Rampley, RHA security and infrastructure manager, told roadtransport.com "Fuel thefts in the road haulage industry have always been a big issue, but the spike in diesel costs will make operators' margins suffer even more than usual."
Rampley said that while some thieves were stealing diesel for personal use, an increasing number were selling large amounts of fuel on the black market. The RHA survey backed this up, revealing a hike in the number of thefts in the region of 1,000-1,500litres, compared to the average 100-600litres that had been stolen in the past.
More than half of victims in the poll said diesel had been siphoned directly from lorry tanks, while the rest had been taken from storage tanks in yards and compounds.
Perhaps not suprisingly the most vulnerable locations and times are lay-bys at night and in the late afternoon.
One leading haulier, David McMurray, MD of Accrington, Lancashire company McMurrays Haulage told roadtransport.com. "We have been targeted a handful of times so far in 2011. It has been a problem for the industry for a long time, but fuel is becoming like liquid gold-dust, so I'm not surprised to hear the number of incidents has risen again."
McMurrays has fitted its fleet with anti-siphoning products, but there are doubts over whether this is effective. The RHA said that some anti-siphoning security was proving counterproductive because thieves went well-equipped and tore the fuel cap off the tank, which left the whole tank in need of replacing at even greater expense.
This is where telematics can play its part. Of course, you can never stop a determined criminal, especially when they operate in well organised - and potentially dangerous - gangs. But devices like iBox's 'Check-Mate' and 'Eco-Mate' can help fleet managers keep abreast of what's happening remotely by helping them monitor variables, from fuel levels to the security of vehicles in lay-bys. If drivers are targeted by gangs, the 'Tele-mate' also allows two way communication between driver and fleet office and, if necessary, the police.
On the subject of which, we would expect the police to help combat this alarming rise. And, to be fair, the specialist lorry crime unit TruckPol has re-introduced the reporting of fuel thefts under 1,000 litres after stopping the service back in July 2009.
But as we reported in a previous blog, TruckPol now faces severe funding cutbacks. It all means that hard-pressed hauliers are going to feel more embattled - and abandoned - than ever.