Tips on keeping van thieves away from your vehicle
Vans are valuable items, not only the physical vehicle, but the tools and equipment that sit inside too. Each year, around 47,000 commercial vehicles are stolen in the UK. That is a total cost of around £152m. When you rely on your van to be able to do your job, this poses a huge risk. The cost of downtime spent off the road added to potentially having to pay to replace the van and tools would hit any business hard. So, how do you ensure that your vehicle is protected and doesn’t become one of the 185,000 vehicles broken into each year? Can we really rely on ‘no tools are left in the van overnight’ stickers to deter thieves, or are there more effective measures you can take to protect your livelihood?
I recently discussed this topic with one of my sub-contractors, ProtectAVan Solutions LTD, and together we’ve compiled a list of steps van users can take to increase their vehicle security.
Is it locked?
Think twice about locking your van – did you definitely remember to lock it? It may sound pretty fundamental, but it’s essentially the difference between whether or not you receive an insurance pay-out should your vehicle be stolen. The implications of this can be anything from footing the bill yourself to replace the van if you’re a business owner, or potentially losing your job if you’re a driver for another company. A big risk for the sake of a click of a button! Do you often arrive at a job and leave your van visibly open and unattended whilst unloading? You could be inviting waiting thieves to help themselves to equipment left in the vehicle. Similarly with leaving your vehicle running while you make a quick delivery, or leaving the keys in at a petrol station. Breaking habits like these can greatly reduce your exposure to van thieves.
If you have a vehicle that is fitted with a double lock or deadlocking system, you have the ability to disable the internal handles by pressing the lock button on the remote twice. By doing this you will prevent thieves breaking in through a window and opening the door from the inside. Why not also take double measures inside the vehicle, such as using secure van toolboxes? If a thief does manage to get past your double secure locking system, they will then need to break into the secure box to retrieve your tools, hopefully by which time someone will have been alerted.
Upgrade your locks
Even if you’re not based in what’s typically considered to be a high crime area – it is always worth considering fitting extra security locks such as deadlocks, which offer an extra locking point to a door, or slam locks, which lock as soon as a door is shut. Both are independent to the standard manufacturer’s locking system. Many people do not realise that most vehicles’ standard locking systems can be overcome with just a flat bladed screwdriver, but the good news is that they can be easily enhanced by fitting one of these extra security products.
Another issue that many people are not aware of, is that the latches on the top middle and bottom of the back door are all connected by one wire – so if a thief drills a hole into your vehicle and manipulates/pulls the internal release wire – the doors will open, leaving the contents of the van ready for the taking. To tackle this, there are various anti-drill guards and door handle protectors available to reinforce the metal around this vulnerable point on your vehicle, making it harder for thieves to access the internal release wire and ultimately keep your van and its contents safe.
Expensive? Take it with you…
Working in the vehicle industry, you quickly learn that some insurance companies have limits on the maximum amount they will pay out per tool in the event of a theft. The advice I always offer to customers is that if it’s expensive, make sure you take it home with you at the end of the day. It may seem easier to leave your tools there for the next day, but do not take the risk of leaving them in the vehicle overnight. It also goes without saying that the same principle applies for the vehicle cab. Forgetting to hide or remove any valuable gadgets is easily done when you’re in a rush, but taking an extra 30 seconds to check there’s nothing in sight that might tempt thieves, such as satnav wires or holders, will save you a lot of money and hassle in the long run. Thieves have been known to use radio frequency jamming equipment to prevent vehicles from locking in busy areas, such as hardware store car parks and motorway service stations, then steal the vehicle’s contents once the driver is out of sight. So the fewer valuables you leave in the van, the less vulnerable you are to this type of tactic.
Final extra measures you can take
Many vehicles have manufacturer specific security weaknesses; for example, Sprinters can be broken into and driven away by swapping the electronic control unit (ECU). Using a guard like an ECU Shield and OBD Port Protector will prevent this from happening by acting as a high security secondary measure to protect the port from being overridden. In a worst case scenario, added technology such as a GPS tracker will offer a helping hand in giving you the best chance of finding your vehicle if stolen. It’s worth speaking to your vehicle supplier to find out if they can provide a telematics solution to further protect your vans.
If all else fails and you are unlucky enough to have your vehicle stolen, it’s important to work with your vehicle provider to make sure that you are able to get on with business as usual. Can your vehicle provider supply immediate replacement vehicles? Seeking out a package that facilitates this can remove any risk of losing your profitable time on the road. By working with your vehicle supplier, take the time to help them fully understand your business needs and work collaboratively to ensure these are met through your vehicle security.
Security should never be an afterthought, never leave the safety of your tools and van to chance. The time, inconvenience and cost implications that are associated with a stolen vehicle are enormous. How much will lost business impact on your business? Equally, what will it cost for a temporary vehicle solution? It’s crucial to measure that against how much it will cost to enhance your vehicle security. It will be clear that being prepared for the worst will be more efficient and cost effective in the long run.