If you’re a tradesperson or business owner who relies on a van, Kelly Friel — Digital Product Manager at industrial tool and PPE supplier Zoro — shares her top tips on how to protect yourself and your business from the rising threat of van theft.

For many people, whether they work in a trade, as a delivery driver, or own a small business, their company and whole livelihood can depend on their van. Often, it can be used for everything from a primary mode of transport or a delivery vehicle to a place to store expensive tools and equipment —and in some cases, it does all of the above. It’s therefore essential that owners know how to prevent such an essential part of their business from being stolen or vandalised.

According to a recent study by Direct Line, in just six months (from April to November 2021) more than £46 million worth of tools were reported stolen from vans across the country. Despite this threat, however, 56% of tradespeople still leave tools in their vehicle overnight and 59% don’t have specific insurance in place to cover them in the event of stolen equipment. Seeing as an average of 30 vans are stolen every day in the UK (which has cost businesses around £61.9 million since 2016), it therefore pays to protect your van and its contents from criminals (RAC). Below we’ve collated some of our top tips and advice to keep your vehicle as safe as possible.

Invest in security equipment

Locks

By their very nature, a van’s side and back doors can be the most vulnerable parts of the vehicle and can leave it open to theft. They may be convenient for quickly accessing your tools during a job, but they have also made one particular technique popular among thieves in recent years: the ‘peel and steal’ or ‘peek and seek’ method. This involves hanging onto the top of a van door with their fingers, applying their full body weight by pressing their knee into the door, and slowly bending it back to reveal the tools inside (Enterprise). This method has become popular with criminals because it doesn’t require any of their own tools, meaning that if they are caught, they won’t receive extra charges for being equipped.

To prevent the ‘peel and steal’ method, the best course of action is to fit security deadlocks to the top of your van doors, as factory-fitted locks won’t be enough on their own. However, it’s also wise to upgrade the factory-fitted locks you already have, as this helps to protect your van from more traditional break-in methods too. If you’re worried that you might forget to lock your van (especially if you have to open and close your doors frequently throughout the day) you can also invest in a slam lock. These do what they say on the tin, and lock automatically every time the doors slam shut. As well as automatic locking, they also allow you to open doors independently, meaning that you’ll be protected from any opportunist thieves passing by. Just make sure that you never leave your keys inside!

Alarms

You may not always be able to prevent thieves from breaking into your van and damaging it in the first place. So, investing in an alarm system as your second line of defence can help you to catch them in the act, and hopefully make it easier to press charges if it comes to this. Siren alarms are great for alerting you to any break-ins if you’re in the area, for instance if you park your van at home or even experience an attempted theft while on the job. However, it’s also wise to back this up with a silent alarm that sends an alert to your mobile phone, especially if you have to park the van back at your office or any other remote location.

Immobilisers

It may be an extra step for you and your team to remember each day, but setting up immobilisers like a steering lock or wheel clamp whenever you leave your van unattended can help prevent theft as well. This way, if a criminal does manage to successfully break in, they won’t be able to make a quick getaway with your vehicle. Not only this, but even if they find a way to remove or disarm these safety features, they will be slowed down enough for your alarms to go off and for any onlookers to call the police.

Window protection and signage

Side panel doors and windows were found to be the key entry point for perpetrators, so as well as locks and alarm systems, it’s important to protect your van’s windows. Tinted windows can prevent potential thieves from seeing any valuable tools left inside, which is often all the motivation they need to attempt an opportunistic theft. You may also consider adding steel grilles to your windows to prevent criminals from smashing them and entering your vehicle this way.

Sometimes, even just the knowledge that you have security systems in place can deter thieves from targeting your van. So, as well as protecting your windows from prying eyes, a simple and inexpensive way of protecting your van is to add stickers and other signage declaring that you have an alarm system, dash cam, or even technology like a GPS tracker installed. These can be hard for criminals to disarm or remove, which is a major deterrent if they plan to steal and sell the van for a quick profit.

Take your own daily precautions

Once you’ve kitted out your van with the best alarms, locks, and any other security systems you and your company can afford, the rest is down to the precautions you take every day. Brief any new starters in your business on the importance of keeping the van safe, and make sure that every one of your staff members is aware of the following steps to prevent theft or vandalism.

Choose your parking space wisely

Often, we don’t have much choice in where we park our vehicles, and if you’re a tradesperson on a job you’ll most likely need easy access to your van throughout the day. However, whenever possible, try to park your van with the back or side doors up against a wall. This minimises the chance of thieves accessing the vulnerable parts of your van through the peel-and-steal method. Try to also park in a well-lit area with plenty of CCTV.

Remove and protect the contents

Finally, one of the more obvious yet effective precautions to take is removing any valuable tools from your van and storing them somewhere more secure overnight. Without any equipment inside, your van can be less appealing to thieves — not only this, but if they do manage to steal it, your business can continue with its day-to-day work as you still have all your essential tools. To make this as easy as possible, try organising your tools into large, sturdy boxes so you can simply lift and transfer them to your garage, shed, or storeroom at the end of each day. Using security boxes with a padlock also adds an extra layer of protection to keep your equipment as safe as possible.

If your van or the tools inside are stolen, it can put your whole business and livelihood on hold. Learn how to protect your vehicle from theft and damage with these top tips from Zoro. To keep up to date with the latest in the courier and parcel industry, read the rest of our news and features section today.

By Alison