Soaring fuel prices are making fuel tankers a target for criminal syndicates on South Africa’s roads, as vehicle thefts and hijackings show an upward trend. This was reported by vehicle-recovery and fleet-intelligence company Netstar, a subsidiary of Altron, as it released a new set of trends data.
“We have seen a rise in reported incidents of hijackings from our customers in the first six months of this year,” says Netstar operations executive Charles Morgan. “From January to June 2022, the incidence of hijackings and thefts among our customer base rose by 24%.”
Morgan says there have also been incidents involving the hijacking of fuel tankers belonging to Netstar fleet customers. “There are indications that fuel tankers are becoming a target,” says Morgan. “In a recent case, a fuel tanker was hijacked by a criminal gang after midnight. “Thanks to our fleet camera solution and our recovery operations, we were able to recover the customer’s vehicle and to locate the driver, who was unharmed” says Morgan.
With camera technology installed, we can remotely access real-time footage of vehicle activities in their fleet, using features like driver cameras, road-facing cameras, and mobile streaming. Netstar’s recovery rate for stolen and hijacked vehicles averages above 90%.
“Although Netstar has a high recovery rate, we are seeing a significant increase in incidents, and fleets and their cargo remain at risk,” says Morgan. “We recommend that operators of tanker fleets be extra vigilant and take all measures they can to protect their drivers and their vehicles.”
Other trends identified by Netstar include a spike in vehicle thefts during the morning hours, followed by a surge in hijackings during the afternoon and the evening. During May and June, daily vehicle hijackings reached a peak in the period between 7pm and 8pm.
“Our data indicates that hijackings are more common in the evening hours,” says Morgan. “Hijackings are also the most common way for vehicles to be stolen, among our customer base. This implies that criminals may find it easier to steal a vehicle through a contact crime like hijacking, than through theft of an unattended vehicle. This may be because there is no need to circumvent alarm and immobiliser technology when the driver is at the wheel.”
Netstar’s breakdown of theft and hijacking incidents by province indicates that Gauteng is by far the main hotspot for vehicle crime. In June this year, 51,2% of the vehicle-theft crimes Netstar recorded in the country happened in Gauteng. KwaZulu-Natal recorded the second most incidents with 23%, while the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape both registered around 6% of incidents.