If you work in any trade you will be aware of the problem of theft from vans. Statistics show that theft from vans and theft of works vehicles is on the increase with half of all builders in a recent survey stating that they have had tools stolen, and, of course, it’s not just the loss of valuable tools. Until they are replaced, you can’t do your job. It really couldn’t be much more serious. Here we look at some ways in which you can stay one step ahead of the thief, covering van security basics, looking at ‘peel and steal’ theft, van security boxes, and the ins-and-outs of professional insurance.
Let’s start with the most obvious things. Don’t leave the van unlocked or windows open when unattended. Of course, the most basic thing you can do to prevent tools being stolen from your van is to remove them from the vehicle overnight, but this is not always practical. If you generally carry one or two bags or boxes containing a power tool and you're most often used hand tools, then it’s not too difficult to grab them from the back of the van and take them into your house. If, like me, you are likely to forget them the next morning, or you have a lot of tools, or for some other reason it is not convenient to remove them every night there are still some sensible precautions you can take. If possible, try to park in a well-lit area, or where you can see the van from the house. Fitting a high-security lock to the van doors is simply cheap and effective, if you have a side sliding door then you might need two but it’s well worth it; however, see ‘What is ‘peel and steal’ theft’, below. A good quality professionally fitted alarm which will be triggered in the event of a break-in but not every time a car drives past is a good investment. You can even buy security cameras for vans and cars which will monitor activity in or around the vehicle, and some can even be set up to relay images to a remote device using 4G, although such equipment is expensive and may well be overkill for protecting your tools, especially if a thief simply steals the camera. One more thing to remember is that theft from vans overnight is only a small part of the story. Many thefts take place during the day while the van and its owner are working. See also, ‘How to protect tools inside the van’, below.
Peel and steal, or peel and seek, theft is a fairly new way that thieves have found to gain access to certain vans without using any tools. Two or three people pull on the top of the door, usually the side sliding doors, but it can also be done to rear doors. By pushing a knee into the door and levering the top down, using brute force, they can bend the top of the door down enough to see inside and find out if there are tools worth stealing. Even if they don’t get away with anything your van door is wrecked and needs to be completely replaced meaning an expensive insurance claim.
Manufacturers are aware of the problem, which emerged in the last couple of years, and working to find ways of preventing this novel method of a break-in, but even if they have solved the problem any vans older than about a year would likely still be vulnerable. Options for preventing this type of theft include adding a security lock to the top of the doors may be an option. Reinforcing the door interior possibly by welding some steel channelling to it may also be an option.
Sometimes, for a variety of reasons it is simply impractical to remove tools from the van overnight. You may also have reason to want to secure your tools in the van while you are working, for example, if you are just going for lunch, or if you are working on a site with multiple contractors. If someone does manage to get into your van, perhaps using the ‘peel and seek’ method, they may well be slowed down and prevented from stealing your tools by a good quality van box or tool safe. Armourguard van boxes come in a range of sizes and can offer top security with high-grade steel and tamperproof hinges. Of course, you will still have the problem of damage to your vehicle, but at least you can carry on working while the insurance company handles the claim.
Checking your insurance policy is a must. No matter how much care you take, there is always a possibility that a determined thief will find a way into your van. If you have not taken out the right level of cover then you could find yourself left high-and-dry when it comes to a claim. You need to be insured for using the van for business and commercial use as a minimum. If your policy only covers you for social, domestic, or pleasure use but you are using it for work, then you may find out that you are not insured at all. Even if you have informed your insurer that you use the van for work, your policy may not cover you for theft from the vehicle. If in doubt, get in touch with your insurer or broker and ask. Most policies can be adjusted accordingly and although it may cost a little more it could save you a great deal in the long run.