Six tips to protect your van from theft

Our top tips to protect your fleet as van thefts continue to increase


Security is something that all van owners should be prioritising, given that the number of vans stolen in the UK has increased by 45% over the last four years, according to research by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles in October 2019.

Incredibly, there were 32,056 reported van thefts between 2015/16 and 2018/19. 9,371 of that came in 2018/19 alone.

It is estimated that thefts are costing van owners approximately £61.9 million in lost tools. But beyond the stolen items there are the long-term ramifications of lost work on a contractor’s livelihood.

Radius Telematics reported that this trend has continued since lockdown in the UK was enforced. With many offices, factories, and construction sites vacated until very recently, thieves have been making the most of the opportunity to steal vehicles and the contents within them, with many thefts not being reported for days.

Fleets come in all shapes and sizes and it doesn’t matter if you have one, 10, or 100 vans – they’re still at risk of being broken into if they are not properly protected, but there are security steps that can be taken to negate the issue.

As lockdown restrictions begin to ease and more van return to the roads, Mark Russell, owner of automotive locksmiths Birmingham Car Keys, has identified several tips that can not only save fleet owners and van drivers from being the victims of theft but save them a pretty penny in the process too.

Don’t rely solely on a manufacturer’s security

Without investing in security, breaking into a van is made all the easier by the fact that potential thieves are only having to bypass a mass-produced manufacturing lock system. This makes vans, many of which carry a lot of expensive equipment, easy targets.

We see a lot of companies that still do not invest in the correct security and are solely reliant on the manufacturer’s security. It leaves a gaping hole because the security is mass-produced to meet the benchmark that has been set with insurers by research body, Thatcham.

While Thatcham is no doubt an expert in its field, mass-produced locks are easy targets. Once a thief has beaten one, they’re more likely to try again and again.

It is the consumer’s responsibility to make their locking system better and our biggest advice to anyone would be to look at what else can be done to protect the van and the contents inside it.

Security locks are the biggest deterrent

There are a number of additional security measures that can be taken.

With any call we take, we always look into a van’s physical and electronic security to see whether an additional alarm fitting is required or another security fitting on the front and back doors.

Both of those would be our first port of call. Beyond that, we suggest electronic security, liketracker alarm systems, which have grown immensely in popularity over recent years.

But the biggest deterrent is always having external security locks on the doors. There are a couple of different options that we recommend too:

  • Slamlocks – Does what it says on the tin! They lock your door the instant you slam it shut and are a great tool to ward off potential opportunistic thieves
  • Deadlocks – keeps your doors locked with a single bolt and is difficult to pick because there is no spring involved.

Locks like these are a great investment and are proven to enhance a vehicle’s security.

Consider fitting a tracker alarm system

Analysis of all new vans on sale today by What Car? Vans found that just 58% of models come with a factory fitted alarm as standard.

Another 36.5% were found to offer a factory-fitted alarm only as an optional extra, but staggeringly four out of 10 vans sold did not feature a factory-fitted alarm.

These are stark statistics, especially when you consider the rate in which this type of vehicle is broken into or stolen.

Even with all the precautions that can be taken, if the worst should happen and your van is stolen then a tracker alarm system will give you and the police the best chance of recovering the vehicle.

The rise in GPS technology has also made vehicle trackers an affordable and effective option for van owners, while some of the more advanced vehicle tracking systems also double-up as private alarms, notifying the owner via a smartphone app if the vehicle is tampered with or moved.

Best tips for when you’re finishing up for the day

A lot of thefts, we find, take place outside the owner’s home during the evening.

However, sometimes they can take place out in the yard. The chances of this happening have increased during the current period when staff numbers are down, or there has been a security breach.

These thefts are often spontaneous acts and it all boils down to circumstances and chances, so the question is how can you put people off?

Obviously, CCTV and parking in well-lit, busy streets are more effective than you think, but even at home, there are steps you can take to protect your van. For instance, think about fitting a security light or, if possible, a secure gate.

The number one tip would be to always empty your van at the end of the working day. It may be the last thing you want to do at the end of a long day, but doing so not only protects your livelihood, but puts potential thieves off if they see that there isn’t anything worth taking.

Don’t try and fix a broken lock yourself

Again, should the worst happen, and your van does get broken into, do not try and fix the problem yourself because you more than likely will make the job more difficult for a professional locksmith.

It’s something I have seen a lot and most people actually cause more damage when they try to fix something themselves and it can mean that we are spending more time trying to do a job.

Choose quality

In the current market, getting the right price is crucial for businesses and, naturally, most companies will have a price point.

But our advice to fleet owners is to look at getting the best security equipment you can for your vans because while it is more expensive in the short-term, you will save money in the long run.

For example, a standard transit lock, which coincidentally is the type that is the most broken into, is relatively expensive at £150.

For greater security, go for a security lock, which will never need replacing because it will never get broken off and, on average, just costs £100 more.

It comes back to a short-term loss for a long-term gain, but we don’t see many companies adopt that way of thinking.

Dan Parton
Dan Parton
Dan Parton is a former editor of Truck & Driver, the UK’s biggest selling truck magazine. He is now writes for The Van Expert and The Truck Expert.

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