A TRADESMAN’S GUIDE TO KEEPING YOUR VAN SECURE
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If you rely on your van for business, it’s vital you not only keep it running well, but maximise security too.
Vans can be a target for opportunistic thieves, especially if they think there’s something valuable inside.
Many van owners transport and store expensive tools and equipment. Thieves know this.
Dangers of van theft
In 2016, tool theft cost the UK’s tradespeople just under £100m (£94,521,600), according to one report.
Workers rely on these tools to get the job done, so it’s not surprising theft forces people to miss work and
potentially lose out on money coming in. In fact, in the same report, some people were over £14,000 out
of pocket after just one break in. Other findings included:
71% of workers admitted they felt stress and/or anxiety after being stolen from
50% of tradespeople couldn’t work the next day, with some workers having to take two weeks off
Being unable to work costs 50% of tradespeople at least £500
There’s also the effects on existing customers, and potential reputational damage. I
t’s a lot for tradespeople to worry about and can quickly have an impact on wellbeing.
UK theft statistics
111,999 cars were stolen in 2017-18, up from 75,308 in the 2013-14 financial year.
5 MINUTES On average, vehicle theft occurs every five minutes in Britain.
300 Motors being stolen every day. Source: This is Money
VAN THEFT 22,749
van or tool thefts in 2017. That was a rise of nearly two-thirds in two years.
23 MINUTE A van is broken into and the tools stolen every 23 minutes.
62 That’s around 62 thefts every day.
Source: Power Tools 4 U
Unfortunately, car and van theft is on the rise. Criminals are also breaking into vans,
not to steal the vehicle, but to take the tools inside. With the average tool theft claim costing £1,692,
falling victim is costly. 50% of people asked had even been stolen from more than once.
Even more (70%) knew someone who had tools taken from their van.
AROUND THE UK, THERE ARE
TOOL THEFT HOTSPOTS
Source: Installer Online
How criminals target your
Of course, many thefts happen in a typical smash-and-grab style. But as vans use more sophisticated
technology, criminals have to modernise their methods. They’re pretty savvy and can get past many
advances in security. Some experts criticise the police budget cuts too, as fewer officers doesn’t help.
Some of the newer ways criminals are targeting vans include:
A lot of vans have sensors in the front, so side and back doors, and even roofs, can be literally peeled
back without anything being detected. It’s all down to newer vehicles being made with thinner metal
to improve fuel efficiency. Shockingly, thieves don’t need any specialist tools to do this
The radio signal from your keys to the locks on your van can be intercepted and replicated.
Criminals can then unlock the vehicle easily using a scanner. In 2018,
reports confirmed the rise in keyless van thefts. Up 44% from 2016, 82% of vans were stolen
without keys in 2017. The most frequently stolen and recovered van is the Ford Transit, followed
by the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.
Did you know there are seven times more light good vehicles than lorries on our roads?
According to SMMT, there are more than 3.2 million vans used for business across the UK.
That’s a lot of vans which could be targeted. Learning how to maximise security could pay off.
Parking your van safely
Some of these tips might seem simple, but they’re easily forgotten after a busy day at work.
Try and get into a routine, and remember to do the following regularly:
Take them out of the van and put them somewhere secure – whether that’s at a business storage facility or at home.
MARK YOUR PROPERTY
You can mark your van and all the tools with paint, permanent markers or ultraviolet pens to make sure you’re the recognisable owner if they’re found. Similarly, take photos and keep a note of any serial numbers to prove ownership.
DECIDE ON VAN SIGNAGE
Van signs can indicate to criminals what types of tools they could find inside. But large displays, including your contact details, can be deterring for criminals who don’t want to pay for a re-spray. It’s up to you.
Something as simple as additional lighting can be enough to deter criminals. They’ll know the risks of being visible to other people who might alert the police.
BACK UP AGAINST A WALL
If possible, reverse your van so the side and back doors can’t be accessed. This stops anyone being able to cut into thinner metals and peel them back to get access to your van. With clever parking, you’ll give them no area to work on these entry points.
INSTALL GPS TRACKING
Good quality trackers are off-putting and can help you get a stolen van back. They can be a huge help for the police trying to get your van back to you.
BE AWARE OF RISKIER TIMES
Throughout the year, there are certain spikes when thieves seem to be more active. These include:
- The months leading up to Christmas
CONSIDER OLD TACTICS
They might seem old fashioned, but visible deterrents such as steering and handbrake locks can be effective at making your van a less appealing target.
Types of Locks
To improve your van’s security, many experts recommend taking additional steps to protect your assets. One of the best lines of defence is a decent lock. But where do you start? Some common types of lock include:
Vans with slamlocks installed lock up instantly as you shut the door. There’s no risk of forgetting to lock the van or leaving it temporarily unattended. It’s always protected.
Harder to pick than other locks because there’s no spring in the locking mechanism, a deadlock will secure the doors with a single bolt. You do need to remember to lock the doors every time you leave the van unattended, though.
CATALYTIC CONVERTOR LOCK
The catalytic converter in your van has particulate filters which contain precious metals. Thieves can easily sell these on. You can buy specialist locks to protect your catalytic converter.
Getting the right insurance
In addition to the usual types of insurance policy (telematics, third party only, third party fire and theft, and comprehensive), there are different levels of cover depending on what you use your van for:
PRIVATE VAN INSURANCE
With this, you’ll be covered for everyday activities like the school run, food shop and any social outings. But it won’t cover you if you use your van for any business purposes – including commuting.
COMMERCIAL VAN INSURANCE
If you use your van for work, you’ll need a commercial policy. These include:
Carriage of own goods
This will give you cover for carrying the equipment and tools you need for your trade. It’s ideal for builders, plumbers and carpenters, but people who use their van to get to and from work would need this type of policy too.
Carriage of goods for hire or reward
For anyone who delivers goods, especially to multiple addresses and customers, you’ll need a specific policy to cover this.
This type of policy tends to cover drivers who take a single load a long way. If your business helps people move house, for instance, you’d need this type of insurance.
If you’re not sure what type of policy you need for your van, chat to a few different insurers to get a better idea of what policy suits your use.
It’s worth bearing in mind that prices will vary. Shop around to get the best deal. If you’ve made any modifications to your van to improve security, you’ll need to inform insurers, too. You might be trying to make your van safer, but it could make your insurance premiums more expensive.
To avoid this, look for Thatcham-approved security systems. It’s considered to be the gold standard by most major insurers. A Thatcham Security Certification is an industry benchmark, and “provides reassurance around the functionality, design and performance of alarms, immobilisers and tracking systems.”
How van owners are
If you find yourself a victim of van or tool theft, it can be frustrating waiting for an insurance pay out. What’s more, many people are disappointed with the punishments given to any burglars who are caught. These include community service or a fine.
Fed up with the situation, many tradespeople are committed to raising public awareness and driving change. This includes:
Demanding stronger laws
There’s a call for stronger punishment – for tool theft in particular. A ‘Tool Crime Deserves Time’ petition, with a target of 50,000 signatures, was set up by Lee Watts. “Our Government must look strongly into the growing problem of tool theft from vans and must impose much tougher penalties on those convicted of these crimes,” he writes.
In March 2018, more than 150 vans travelled to Plymouth city centre in convoy to protest the increase in tool thefts in the area. Up and down the country, it’s a problem tradespeople share – and they’re prepared to fight for change.
Sharing tips amongst other tradespeople
There are groups on Facebook, including Tradesmen Against Thieves, as well as websites (e.g. Van Security Talk Group) which share help and advice on stolen vans and tools.