With theft from work vans on the rise a recent survey shows that half of all builders and tradespeople say they have been a victim of tool theft. Having your tools stolen is not just expensive but can also prevent you from working until they can be replaced. Every make and model of van is potentially a target. Of course, some are more secure than others, but in an ever-changing field, manufacturers are constantly working and evolving their designs to ensure their vans are secure. Although statistically, Ford Transits are broken into more than any other make and model, it’s worth bearing in mind that it is also the most popular van on the road. So whether it’s Ford Transit van security or any other van, here are some tips to help keep your tools safe.
Getting the absolute basics right is vital. You might be popping in and out of the site to pick up spares from your van, but that doesn’t mean you should forget to lock it when you leave it. Check that windows are closed and don’t lose track of your keys. All the security in the world won’t help if you leave the keys lying about or don’t lock the vehicle.
This one is fairly obvious although, like a lot of things, this is easier said than done. If at all practical, make sure you don’t leave valuable tools in the van when it is unattended. If for any reason this is not possible there are several other options. Simply putting a sign up that says, “no tools left in this vehicle overnight”, is fairly likely to be ignored by a serious tool thief, but it can’t hurt.
It may not be possible to take your tools into the house every night, and it’s worth bearing in mind a large proportion of tool thefts actually take place during the day. While working on site, many tradespeople can be complacent about their van parked outside while they are working, but it presents a golden opportunity for thieves, especially in the winter months when it gets dark early. You can find a range of sizes and strengths of security boxes which can be bolted into the van. With high-grade steel and tamperproof hinges, these van boxes will deter all but the most determined of thieves.
While we know that security is a high priority for van manufacturers, the standard level of security may not be adequate if you have expensive tools or equipment which cannot easily be removed from the van. There is a range of high-security locks which can be retrofitted to van doors to make getting in much harder. Be aware, however, that some doors can be pried open from the top by force. This technique labeled ‘peel and steal’ has become more common in the last couple of years. If your vehicle is prone to this method of entry, you may need to find some way to reinforce the door to prevent it. Also around one in five thefts from vans involved smashing a window. It may be worth investing in additional window security, especially if your van does not have a fixed bulkhead.
A lot depends on the age of your van as to which type of alarm is best for you. In fact, a lot of new vans will have an in-built alarm and immobiliser. Alarm systems are categorised by an organisation called Thatcham Research who also research into automotive safety. Thatcham provides an officially recognised set of alarm categories and fitting the right type and using it correctly can reduce your insurance premiums significantly.
While some thieves just want to rip the doors open, have a quick look inside and grab anything that is light and valuable, a few are after the big prize. If you can’t carry all your tool indoors at night when a thief will struggle to carry them all away. Unless they steal the van as well. Taking the van to a workshop also means they have time to get to work on your strongbox. By fitting a tracking device, if your van is stolen it is far more likely to be recovered. A recognised tracker is also likely to result in reduced insurance premiums, not to mention your own peace of mind at night.
Thieves are always changing their modus operandi. In recent years there have been a lot of thefts using the ‘peel and steal’ method, but next year it could be something else. Lots of tradespeople are now taking to social media to discuss the methods that van thieves are employing and what countermeasures they suggest. We can’t all come up with the best idea, but by sharing ideas those which are most effective will spread quickly.
A lot depends on your circumstances. If you can park the van out of sight of the road at night so much the better. If not then parking it in a well-lit area, or where there is a lot of activity might help. To prevent thieves from peeling the side door down, many drivers are parking close to a wall, although some vans are also prone to peeling the rear doors as well. If you park in the same place every night then it may well be worth investing in CCTV if you haven’t already. Advertise the fact too. If CCTV is beyond your budget a faux system is almost as effective as a deterrent, although of course will not provide any evidence should thieves still break in.
Some traders are choosing not to sign-write their vans because identifying the van with a particular trade is a clear indicator of the type of tools likely to be on board. Of course, there is a very important trade-off here. If your business is building up, and/or you rely on a lot of new customers for your trade, then removing sign-writing is throwing away one of your cheapest and most effective advertising options. On the other hand, if most, or all, of your work comes from a handful of major contractors, then there is little to be gained from advertising what sort of equipment might be available to the enterprising thief.
If you have van racking or roof bars, then you will need to take additional precautions. As with tools, if it is practical, the best method is to take items indoors at night, however, the very nature of roof bars is that they are used to carry large and bulky items. Ladders can be secured using specially designed locks, while a good quality pipe carrier will have lockable ends. As with the tools inside your van, you can’t make anything 100% safe from a determined thief, but that doesn’t mean you should make it easy for them. Marking items like ladders, both overtly and covertly, will make recovering stolen goods easier.