SERVICE stations have been forced to watch hundreds of dollars drive away every month as cars pull out without paying for their petrol.

Senior Constable Steve Smith of Mackay Police said that across the district fuel drive-offs were a daily event.

As manager of of the United Petroleum in Mackay, Binit Upadhyaya has watched countless cars drive off without paying.

“It’s just a normal occurrence for us.”

He estimated that petrol drive-offs happen at least two or three times a month, costing him between $200 to $400 a month.

These thieves are not just stealing from local businesses though, according to both police and service station operators there is a connection between car thieves and petrol theft.

Sen Const Smith said it was fairly common to see stolen cars being driven to service stations (particularly at night), refuelled by the car thief and quickly driven away afterwards.”

In one dramatic example of highway robbery, one thief drove a stolen car from East Mackay to Surfers Paradise refuelling throughout the trip.

Mr Upadhyaya said people driving stolen cars are obviously not going to fill up and pay.

These petrol thefts are forcing businesses to pass costs onto consumers, according to police.

“It is similar to shop lifting,” Sen Const Smith said.

“Business victims must look to compensate for their losses by increasing costs for all motorists.”

This petrol squeeze comes as the Royal Automobile Club of Queensland revealed Mackay is experiencing the highest petrol prices in its history.

On Monday motorists saw prices as high as 166.9 cents per litre.

RACQ spokeswoman Lucinda Ross said rising global oil prices and a weakening Australian dollar have forced the prices up.

However, RACQ did not believe there was a correlation between high oil prices and petrol drive-offs.

“If you’re stealing fuel, you’re acting as a criminal,” Ms Ross said. “If prices are high or if they’re low we unfortunately do see some cases where people will try and steal fuel.”

With service stations routinely targeted, Queensland police have established an online form and mobile app dedicated to reporting this type of theft.

Extracted from Daily Mercury