The BP outlet on the corner of Holland and Cavendish roads in Holland Park put up signs earlier this week at its bowsers alerting customers that they would have to pay for fuel before filling up after 7pm.

At least one other BP in the area also demands pre-payment, after 8pm.

Other servos have turned to number plate recognition technology, allowing staff to turn off bowsers if people who have previously fled without paying are identified.

It comes after the Crime and Corruption Commission last year issued a new guide for government agencies to help them combat fuel theft by employees, including using work fuel cards to fill jerry cans or personal vehicles.

The sign alerting customers at BP on Cavendish Rd, Holland Park.

The sign alerting customers at BP on Cavendish Rd, Holland Park.

Police now also text and email owners of vehicles identified by CCTV cameras in drive-offs, asking them to return to pay for fuel.

The texts include the vehicle’s registration number and the date, time and place where the incident happened.

But police warned they would never ask people to provide their bank account details, PayPal particulars, personal financial details or ask to make direct payments.

Reported fuel drive-offs jumped 18 per cent across the state last year when the Russia-Ukraine conflict sparked a global rise in crude oil prices.

Although drive-offs started to ease off early this year, the recent series of interest rate rises, higher rental prices and a widespread spike in the cost of living have caused another uptick in desperate people fleeing without paying for petrol.

Motor Trades Association of Australia CEO, Geoff Gwilym, said the MTAA did not support pre-payment, despite sympathising with service station owners.

“Most of these arrangements use credit cards and many people either don’t want or don’t have cards,’’ he said.

“We really prefer police to act on drive-offs, rather than asking fuel retailers to pay for more tech.

“There are also a lot of people who genuinely forget and drive off. Some come back once they’ve realised and apologise and pay up — I’ve seen it myself.’’

Mr Gwilym said while the MTAA realised times were tough and many who needed their car for work or driving children to school struggled to afford petrol, the public needed to realise industry margins were tight — under about three cents per litre.

“The owners have to pay the same day fuel turns up and it can cost $150,000 for a tanker (load),’’ he said.

“Generally, fuel retailers make a living, they’re not millionaires sitting on an oil well in Saudi Arabia.’’

He said cloning of number plates was becoming a bigger problem.

Thieves would use the details of real number plates, often from vehicles parked in car parks, to “clone’’ fake plates.

Victoria was presently rolling out a trial of high tech number plates which used an imprint, similar to holograms on currency, to make it harder to clone plates.

Police data showed there were 7743 drive-offs in Brisbane alone last year.

Thefts were even more common in socio-economically challenged areas such as Caboolture, which as far back as 2015 reported 585 cases at just five service stations.

The Australasian Convenience and Petroleum Marketers Association estimated service stations in Queensland were nowadays each losing just under $10,000 a year, on average, from drive-offs.

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