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Title: Supply Chain-Based Solution to Prevent Fuel Tax Evasion: Final Report

The primary source of funding for the United States transportation system is derived from motor fuel and other highway use taxes. Loss of revenue attributed to fuel-tax evasion has been assessed to be somewhere between 1 billion and 3 billion per year. Any solution that addresses this problem needs to include not only the tax-collection agencies and auditors, but also the carriers transporting oil products and the carriers customers. This report presents a system developed by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) for the Federal Highway Administration which has the potential to reduce or eliminate many fuel-tax evasion schemes. The solution balances the needs of tax-auditors and those of the fuel-hauling companies and their customers. The system has three main components. The on-board subsystem combined sensors, tracking and communication devices, and software (the on-board Evidential Reasoning System, or obERS) to detect, monitor, and geo-locate the transfer of fuel among different locations. The back office sub-system (boERS) used self-learning algorithms to determine the legitimacy of the fuel loading and offloading (important for tax auditors) and detect potential illicit operations such as fuel theft (important for carriers and their customers, and may justify the deployment costs). The third sub-system, the Fuel Distributionmore » and Auditing System or FDAS, is a centralized database, which together with a user interface allows tax auditors to query the data submitted by the fuel-hauling companies and correlate different parameters to quickly identify any anomalies. Industry partners included Barger Transport of Weber City, Virginia (fleet); Air-Weigh, of Eugene, Oregon (and their wires and harnesses); Liquid Bulk Tank (LBT) of Omaha, Nebraska (three five-compartment trailers); and Innovative Software Engineering (ISE) of Coralville, Iowa(on-board telematics device and back-office system). ORNL conducted a pilot test with the three instrumented vehicles collecting real-world data during an eight-month period (October 2014 to June 2015). The vehicles logged a total of 375,000 miles and transported more than 7.5 million gallons of fuel. The drivers entered information on the telematics device about 77% of the time, with about 15% (10%) of the data showing at least one compartment with loading (offloading) valve activity, but not driver information entry for that compartment. Seven events (or about 0.7% of the trips) were identified by the boERS as having a missing fuel diversion number. The solution developed and tested in the pilot test had federal- and state-level tax auditors as its main audience. Nonetheless, the technology has to be adopted by the fuel carriers and therefore the solution had to address the needs of fuel-hauling companies and their customers (i.e., fuel theft and cocktailing). Sensors in the hatches allowed the obERS recognize when one of those were opened (always a suspicious activity, unless it happens at locations where maintenance is performed on the vehicle). The fuel-theft issue was addressed by a self-learning algorithm deployed on the boERS that continuously processed the data from the field to construct probability distributions of measures such as elapsed time of fuel loading and offloading by driver, vehicle, and compartment, valve actuation sequence, elapsed time between the first two valve actuations (by driver, compartment, and location), and other parameters. Probability thresholds, which can be set up by the carrier, determined how to classify the observed events. The boERS also kept track of valve sequencing at a given location and analyzed these actuations to help identify any suspicious activities. Technical and economic recommendations include: a) simplification of the driver data-entry task; b) reduction of system deployment cost; c) addition of capabilities that make the system more appealing to industry (i.e., identify and avoid fuel misdelivery); and d) incorporation of additional capabilities to the FDAS. Path to commercialization recommendations include: a) identify a company willing to further develop, test, and certify a hardened system with a price point the market will bear; b).transfer ERS to licensee; c) establish a fleet or fleets who want this technology for carrier benefits or trailer manufacturer who wants to offer it as optional technology; and d) identify a location for the deployment of FDAS.« less
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  1. Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States). Engineering and Transportation Sciences Division
  2. Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States). Electrical and Electronics Systems Research Division
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Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States)
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Country of Publication:
United States
29 ENERGY PLANNING, POLICY, AND ECONOMY supply chain; fuel tax evasion prevention; fuel theft prevention