Fuel theft is a major problem for everyone in the logistics and transport industry, but help is at hand. The NeckIt! name is well known around the world as the best-selling premium fuel anti-siphon device protecting trucks, buses, vans, pick-ups, boats, plant and machinery and static tanks in over 60 countries and across all continents. Hercules!, a floating valve device was added to the portfolio early last year. Now FuelDefend Global Ltd has launched its budget line FuelKeepValue! to complete the range and positioning them as the only true one-stop-shop that warehousing and logistics operations can rely on for their fuel security. Following FuelDefend’s recent purchase of the TruckProtect business and assets, the anti-siphon devices and other products formerly supplied by TruckProtect are now being supplied by FuelDefend Global (FDG), part of the newly formed FuelDefend family of companies.
Under the auspices of the FuelDefend group of companies NeckIt!, FuelKeepValue! and the other ASD devices continue to gain more large scale distributors and users around the world. Another of NeckIt!’s new range of models won a major contract to fit anti-siphoning devices to Iceland’s refrigerated trucks, taking FuelDefend’s ASD systems into refrigerated trucks for the first time and generating further round the world interest.
It’s a continuing success story, as Russell Fowler, and now CEO and Chairman of FuelDefend Global, explained to Warehouse & Logistics News.
Warehouse & Logistics News – Russell, when did you set up the original TruckProtect business? What were you doing before that?
I previously had a career in diamonds, drugs and tobacco – but all of it legally so, with major global blue chip companies. Immediately before coming into this sector I was a Group Director with easyJet. Following a visit with my son to an old diamond mine in Botswana, the idea formed to start a company to offer superior fuel anti-siphons, which we called TruckProtect.
WLN – When did you first launch NeckIt! and your other anti-siphoning products?
We set up TruckProtect over six years ago. Our first year was spent listening to feedback from the truck sector and designing a product to match. Our design hasn’t changed since, while others have sought to catch up.
WLN – Why have you now set up FuelDefend Global? What difference will having the new set up in place make to your customers here and overseas?
The FuelDefend family of companies enables us to provide a wider offering to the transport sector. FuelDefend Global will remain focused on fuel anti-siphons of all types. FuelDefend Ventures has two main remits – to sell proven third party security and safety products around the world utilising our wide net of distributors and dealers, and to offer a service of product sourcing from China and India to other companies. We have manufactured in China for five years under very strict standards, with quality control carried out by TUV.
WLN – What does your new role as CEO and Chairman of FuelDefend involve? Who else besides you is in the FuelDefend senior management team?
Our philosophy has always been to outsource as much as possible. This enables us to keep the core team small, therefore enabling flexibility and offering best value to our customers. Geoff Reyner, with 25 years in the truck and bus sector, is our International Sales Director, working closely with operators in the UK and our many distributors around the world. Terry Winter is our Finance and Operations Director, while Veronica Geduld is our Customer Services Director. Dave Rogers heads up our USA operations. We have design capabilities around the world.
WLN – In your new guise as FuelDefend Global, how do you sell your devices to your customers?
FuelDefend Global supplies its devices to its customers through an ever increasing network of dealers, distributors and agents, and uses its global design capability across three continents to continue to produce new models and applications in its ongoing commitment to offer the world’s best fuel anti-siphon solutions.
WLN – Which different countries do you sell in?
We have excellent central supply contracts with Paccar, DAF and Scania and their extensive global dealer networks. We hope to bring on more OEMs soon and in various sectors. We’ve sold directly into Azerbaijan and Zimbabwe, and probably most countries in between.
WLN – Which countries do you have local offices in?
We have key agents globally, who promote and monitor their regions. These have been important to us becoming the leading ASD in South Africa and Middle East as well as working closely with truck OEM’s to become the European leader. We launched three years ago in the USA, where we warehouse in Nashville.
WLN – How important is the UK as a market for your products? Which countries are your other major markets?
The UK remains important to us. We have many loyal operators and many more coming across to us with the launch of Hercules! and FuelKeepValue! to supplement our main-selling NeckIt! However, we are very proud to do our bit for UK Plc, and about 85% of our sales are exports.
WLN – Can you talk us through your different anti-siphoning products, how they work and what they do? Which are your bestselling products?
NeckIt! is our premium product, and being unchanged in five years it is very much seen as the industry standard to which others aspire. Hercules! is our floating ball device aimed at operators who want a traditional device – ours being half the price of others in the market. Our new FuelKeepValue! is the new budget line, aimed more at second hand vehicle owners and already shown to be more secure than other budget devices.
WLN – What industry standards are your devices made to?
To win a number of global supply contracts with major OEMs we had to ensure our factories were operating at the highest levels and standards. At considerable cost we use the automotive giant TUV to carry out quality control.
WLN – How easy are these devices to fit? Can customers fit them to their vehicles themselves, if they so wish?
The reason for consulting widely when we started was to design a device for the sector. NeckIt! is installed in several minutes with no speciality tools – and with no drilling, gluing or riveting.
WLN – If we can talk in more detail about fuel theft for a moment, how big a problem is fuel theft in the UK and Europe? What about the rest of the world?
In relative terms, our best market worldwide is Dubai, where fuel prices are lower and punishment for theft is strict. It illustrates that fuel theft happens everywhere. More often than not it’s a “skim” of perhaps 20 litres, and often the operator is unaware of its loss. The problem may be external or internal – and may happen out on the road or in the depot.
WLN – What kinds of fuel loss figures are we talking about? What are the truck operators, the police and transportation businesses in general doing about it?
Given that much fuel theft is a low volume skim, it is difficult to monitor the exact level. Indeed, many operators may not be aware of fuel theft happening. Fuel is usually not insured, and so police and insurers are unable to collate incidents. Loyal customers have informally reported back to us fuel improvements of between 2-4% after installing NeckIt!
WLN – Do you think the logistics and transport industry appreciates the potential benefit of your anti-siphon devices?
We think the industry’s only scratched the surface in terms of purchases. The biggest challenge is getting the people most exposed to recognise that fuel theft is endemic. Thereafter, for only £65 NeckIt! is surely a wise investment.
WLN – Presumably there’s more to preventing fuel theft besides fitting anti-siphon devices; in order to achieve total security, you have to encourage operators to rethink their whole fuel security setup. Do you offer such an advisory service?
We work with other companies to integrate other systems such as RFID-based systems, which allow the driver to fill their fuel tank only when the gun is placed within the fuel neck. We would always suggest operators use fuel monitoring/management systems, and drivers take a common sense approach to where they park and so on.
WLN – Does fitting one of your anti-siphon devices to a vehicle slow down refilling at the pump? What is the filling rate with the devices in place? Is there a problem with splashback?
We designed NeckIt! to accept a 120 litres/minute filling rate without splashback – and we simply do not have such problems.
WLN – Is there any way that thieves can see that a vehicle has these systems in place? Do you put warning notices on vehicles to say that an anti-siphoning system has been fitted?
For most models the would-be thief sees a 25mm metal band at the top of the fuel neck. In a few cases we’ve supplied warning stickers. If the fuel theft problem is an internal one, the use of ASDs will be well known.
WLN – When unauthorised siphoning takes place, does an alarm sound on the vehicle or is a message sent to a remote device?
No, NeckIt! prevents fuel theft.
WLN – Do anti-siphoning systems get clogged? Do they need cleaning, and how often? How do you do it? How long do the devices last for?
The devices come with a three-year warranty, but should last as long as the vehicle as they have no moving parts. The devices do not clog and need no maintenance. We can supply a re-fitting lit to enable them, to be moved to new vehicles.
WLN – You also have a product called the SADRAS Wireless Safe Driving Active System. Please can you talk us through this? Who is it designed for?
It’s a world-leading technology product which offers the driver audible and flashing light warnings when reversing – but with a wireless installation. This makes it cheaper to fit, maintenance free, flexible and more reliable than other systems. Sensors can also be fitted to the vehicle side to warn of cyclists and passengers. It’s aimed at vans, buses, rigids and articulated trucks.
WLN – Are there any other products in your range that you’d like to highlight at this point?
The locking AdBlue (or DEF in the USA) cap has been a terrific product for us. This is aimed as much at offering the driver a final reminder not to put the wrong fluid in their AdBlue tank, as it is to stop theft. Replacing and recommissioning an AdBlue pump can cost over £2,000.
WLN – Within the FuelDefend family you have two associate companies, FDVentures Ltd and FD Consulting Ltd. Can you talk us through what they do?
FD Ventures offers a portfolio of proven, specialist, cost-saving, efficiency-based, novel, leading edge safety and security and fuel-related products from within and from third parties around the world. FDV offer nationally based companies the opportunity to take their products to the global market through our links into vehicle OEM networks, major distributors and other re-sellers. FDConsulting offers product and service consulting to product companies including product improvement, IPR advice and manufacturing in low cost regions around the world. FDC also offers bespoke multi-module fuel-related monitoring systems to operators in transportation and other sectors with partner companies.
WLN – FDConsulting’s bespoke multi-module fuel-related monitoring systems sound very interesting. Can you tell us about those? How many such systems have you put in place so far, and who for?
This is very much a brand new operation for us, but we are currently working on some exciting international opportunities in transport and non-transport areas with other major partners from abroad.
WLN – The big fleet operators have fuel management systems in place in their depots at their refuelling points. How do your anti-siphoning devices and fuel monitoring systems interact with these?
Fuel monitoring systems give vital information for operational and financial planning and are essential to any operation. However, they will not pick up small volume, regular “skims”, or, at best, they record a major theft AFTER it has happened. Our devices stop such theft and should be used in conjunction with fuel systems.
WLN – How did the Iceland refrigerated trucks contract come about? How many vehicles, and what kind of devices, were involved?
Although Iceland has a large DAF fleet a request was made through one of our key UK distributors, Aide Automotive, from Pullman Services, the fleet’s maintenance providers. What was very satisfying was that four parties worked closely together and within five weeks four new NeckIt! models were designed, manufactured in China and 400 units installed for Iceland’s range of tanks on their refrigerated vehicles.
WLN – Do you have more such projects in the pipeline with the truck OEMs?
Yes we have. Two years ago our StopSpill! anti-spill valve (ASV) won the prestigious KillSpills safety award. It’s a simple device, which fits into our anti-siphons to prevent spillage if the fuel cap is not replaced or if the vehicle overturns. With one of our global OEMs we are trialling the device as a possible standard fitting within our ASDs. We have a number of other projects with third parties, which we hope to come to fruition in the near future.
WLN – What kinds of products are in the FDVentures portfolio? Are you looking to take on more products, and which countries are you looking at supplying? What kinds of products are you interested in taking on? Who should manufacturers contact, to discuss you handling their products?
SADRAS and the locking AdBlue caps are already in the portfolio and we plan more soon, broadly in the vehicle security and safety or fuel efficiency area. We’re currently working with a leading university in the UK on some exciting products. For other companies, we offer the chance to take their products anywhere in the world. Contact should be with myself initially.
WLN – Do you have any more plans for further acquisitions?
We’re always open to new opportunities! The FuelDefend family of companies is well capitalised and has access to funding for planned acquisitions and joint ventures in the commercial vehicle safety and security sector, which may include rival groups in the UK and abroad. We regard the UK market as being probably overpopulated at present, and would certainly see an additional acquisition as likely. Through investment, careful planning and extensive networking, we are able to compete worldwide, and have been doing so with a lot of success. Others who have stayed largely in the home market provide obvious targets for us and, as we move into discussions with various parties, I’m confident that we’ll have more to tell you on this subject in the coming months. Also be on the lookout for more joint ventures and co-marketing agreements. It’s an exciting time.
WLN – Finally, where do you see the FuelDefend Group going from here?
Anywhere and everywhere! We are committed to best value for customers – and that could be beyond just vehicles. We have a high quality team with an opportunistic sense of business.
Tel: 01753 890911