Police officers waste £600,000 of taxpayers' cash putting wrong fuel in cars... despite talking fuel caps designed to warn them

Exclusive: Police officers have splashed out on warning signs and even talking fuel caps in an attempt to curb the errors

Careless police officers have wasted more than £600,000 of taxpayers' money in the past four years by filling up their patrol cars with the wrong type of fuel, The Independent has learnt.

The figures, revealed in a Freedom of Information request, relate to 37 out of the 40 police forces in England and Wales. Data from 15 of the forces was incomplete - meaning that the real cost of misfuelling is likely to amount to thousands more. The data shows that the cost of the errors since 2009 amounts to at least £600,614.

In the past, police forces have even spent money on "talking fuel caps" and warning signs in an attempt to curb the errors, but hundreds of officers are still pumping gallons of the wrong fuel into their tanks.

In 2008 Essex Police spent £4,000 on the caps, which play a recorded reminder not to use the wrong fuel every time the user fills up. But the warnings fell on deaf ears, with 150 diesel police cars being filled with petrol between 2008 and 2013, costing the force £32,726 - eight times the cost of the caps themselves.

A spokesperson for the force claimed that a year-on-year decrease in incidents meant that misfuelling had "ceased to be a matter of great concern", adding: "Over the years the force has made concerted efforts to reduce these instances of human error."

Seven years ago, North Wales Police started using bright yellow cap covers for its diesel cars - but that has not stopped officers racking up a £11,161 repair bill in the past four years alone. In November 2010, a single error cost Leicestershire police force £2,859 - enough to pay for 204 pairs of handcuffs.

Since 2009, the Metropolitan Police, which has a fleet of around 6,500 vehicles, has cost the taxpayer £288,151 in repair costs after police made 991 errors at the pump. A spokesperson said: "If a vehicle is unavailable then clearly that's not ideal, but we can work around it." They added that there was no "mandatory punishment" for officers who made such an error.

A spokesperson for Kent police, which racked up a £26,474 bill for repairs, said: "As measures by Kent Police to reduce misfuelling of vehicles have taken effect, the occasions of putting the wrong fuel in fleet vehicles has significantly reduced, with just 25 recorded instances in 2012 and only nine occasions so far in 2013."

In the last two years Staffordshire Police and Cheshire Constabulary spent £20,163 of taxpayers' money on repairing and recovering vehicles, after officers filled up 35 high-performance police cars, including a top-end BMW S30, with petrol instead of diesel.

Although pumping diesel into a petrol engine causes little damage, filling up a diesel engine with petrol can cost £5,000 per vehicle to repair. The cost is especially high if officers ignore their mistakes and drive off, circulating the incorrect fuel within the engine.

The RAC, which responds to nearly 40,000 callouts a year for misfuelling, criticised the police. "You would hope anyone driving a vehicle paid for by the tax payer would be extra careful," a spokesman said. He added that the figures "demonstrated how easy it is to use the wrong fuel in a vehicle".

According to the AA, at least 150,000 drivers fill up their cars with the wrong fuel every year. "Misfuelling seems to be associated particularly with the growth in diesel car sales. Modern diesels are so quiet it's easy to forget you're driving one, particularly if it's a second family car or hire car," a spokesman said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing