Oil is a precious commodity, whether for use commercially or by the military to power its myriad vehicles and aircraft. It is also vulnerable to being stolen as it is transported cross-country by fuel tankers.
GlobalTrak — a Dulles,Va.–based cargo-tracking company — announced in July it had completed its shipment of fuel-monitoring systems to Afghanistan for Defense Logistics Agency contractors who transport oil across the country’s dangerous roads.
Ongoing war in Afghanistan makes fuel transport particularly dangerous, and its dirt roads — which are either dusty or muddy depending on the weather — contribute to tankers running off-road and making fuel delivery more difficult, said Rich Meyers, vice president of GlobalTrak and business development at its parent company, ORBCOMM.
When fuel theft occurs, it’s harder for the military to complete mission-critical goals, but it also may strengthen hostile forces, he added.
“Fuel is kind of liquid cash. It’s very fungible. It can be resold very easily on the black market,” Myers said. “It’s hard to sell an MRAP on the street there.”
The system prevents fuel theft in three ways. First, GPS devices on the tanker ensure the vehicle can be tracked en route. Sensors monitor the amount of fuel the tanker is carrying and can alert the driver to changes. Electronic security seals on fuel access points also send an alarm in case of a breach.
GlobalTrak is not in talks with the DLA to expand the system’s use outside of Afghanistan, but the company is discussing the product with interested commercial oil and distribution companies in Latin America and the Middle East, Meyers said.
Meyers declined to provide details on the cost of the system, but said that in some cases, the system pays for itself in a matter of months.
“It’s really not as though you have to have a large fuel loss to recover the value of the system. Certainly within single digit loss, the system can pay for itself in a very short time,” he said.Photo Credit: Thinkstock