Keep your kit secure
The theft of vans and their contents is a growing problem for installers, and one that can cost tens of thousands of pounds of damage. Taking a few precautions can help reduce the risk
Almost a third of tradespeople have had their van stolen or broken into in the last five years, and many more have had their catalytic converter stolen for scrap metal, a recent survey reveals.
Falling victim to this crime can be crippling for workers who rely on their tools and transport to make a living. Ask any police constabulary and they will tell you that you are unlikely to get your tools back once they have been stolen, showing there is a clear market for ‘knocked-off’ equipment. Where there is demand, there will always be supply, so make sure you are doing everything in your power to secure your tools, van and livelihood.
Not sure where to start? We’ve combined best-practice advice from the police, van insurance experts and van manufacturers to help you beat van theft and break-in.
Consider security from the off
If you’re shopping for a new van, make security a priority. Speak to dealerships to find out which security features come as standard and which can be specified as extras. If your budget allows, opt for alarms, immobilisers and van deadlocks. All van alarms and immobilisers should meet Thatcham Category 2 standards.
There are statistics online showing the break-in rates of all big van manufacturers. Researching van security before buying will help you protect your most valuable assets.
GIVING TRADESPEOPLE A VOICE: RESEARCH AND PETITION
Few people outside the building industry will fully appreciate the impact that van or tool theft can have on its victims. For many tradespeople, their tool kit is something they have built up over many years. If those tools are stolen, they cannot work and therefore cannot replace the tools – a vicious cycle.
The building industry is now taking a stand against van crime. Social media communities are pooling their experience to fuel industry research aimed at manufacturers, police and the government. A survey by the ‘Builders Talk Group’ on Facebook examined a panel of 130 van theft or break-in victims, and estimated that rectifying such a crime would cost a total of £507,450.
There is an online petition, too, calling on the government to impose longer sentences on those found guilty of van or tool theft. With more than 6,000 signatures, the ‘Create tougher penalties’ petition was started by a Birmingham tradesman, who had more than £3,000-worth of power tools stolen from his van.
Modify your van
The tools, parts and materials you carry on a daily basis will depend on your trade. To ensure your van is both secure and practical, modify your van to suit your business needs.
There is a thriving market in add-on security. Hertfordshire Police recommends fitting additional locks to van doors, an approved steering lock or wheel clamp and even a pedal box guard. Many insurers prefer additional heavy-duty steel tool-safe boxes, slamlocks and additional window security. Some insurers even offer discounted premiums to tradespeople using extra approved security devices.
Invest in technology
As well as physical deterrents such as locks and tool-safe compartments, you may want to consider digital security measures.
The police recommend installing a dual-band tracking device, which will track your vehicle even if criminals use GPS-blocking. Make sure the device you buy is Thatcham- and SBD-approved. Vehicles fitted with these devices are often quickly recovered.
Make an inventory
Should the worst happen and your van is stolen or broken into, having an inventory of its contents will assist your insurance provider in processing your claim more efficiently. Keep receipts from big purchases, too, as proof of ownership.
For extra protection, engrave your postcode and house number on each tool and its carry case before taking a photo of each item. A photographic inventory showing personalised etchings will support your insurance claim and make your tools harder to sell after they have been stolen.
Wherever possible, remove your tools overnight. If you know which tools you are going to need for your day’s work, take only those. Where you can, unload them all at once rather than leaving some of them behind in an unaccompanied van.
The police recommend parking your van in well lit, busy areas at night, preferably covered by CCTV. In the day, consider parking by a hedge or wall to restrict access. You could even unload the van first before repositioning it, so you can work without the worry of checking on your vehicle.
If you are a contractor in charge of a fleet of vans, or you’ve taken on an apprentice, make van safety part of your standard training, so van security best practice has a constant presence in your daily work.
LEARNING FROM EXPERIENCE
Mike Mills, groundworks supervisor for Midlands-based Draintech Services, has been a victim of van theft and break-in four times in the last three years, incurring a total loss of £15,000.
“We’ve spent a considerable amount on additional security features such as anti-pick locks, slam locks and GPS trackers,” he says.
“The police were unable to recover our van or the tools that were stolen, and our insurance paid out only around half of what was needed to get me back to work.”
“Some of the tools were worth hundreds of pounds each, and some have been impossible to replace.”
Rob Harrison, sales director for Marvel Plumbing in London, says its fleet of nine vans have been targeted six times in the last two years, costing the firm £21,000.
“Over a period of two years, our vans were broken into outside the engineers’ homes during the night, as well as during the day while they were parked at residential customer addresses,” he says.
“We now fit all of the firm’s vans with alarms, dead locks, slam locks and trackers.”
PLUMB PARTS RECCOMENDS:
- Nest Cam Outdoor security camera: Nest Cam Outdoor stands watch 24/7, rain or shine. It sends an alert when it detects activity and lets you talk back through the Nest app. Available from £179
- Milwaukee ONE-KEY tool tracker: The ONE-KEY is a chip that can be located from a smartphone running the Milwaukee ONE-KEY app, providing control and access to information. Available from £359
- Kasp 500 series van lock and hasp with bracket: The design of the 500 series van lock and hasp makes it almost impervious to common forms of attack. The shackle-less lock is enclosed within the walls of the hasp. Available from £39
To support Gas Safety Week 2017, a team of industry advocates toured Wolseley Plumb Center branches in a Vaillant demo van, with a giant Gas Safe card in tow.
Tackling air quality is likely to become a major focus for government, which could create opportunities for installers who are able to advise customers on reducing emissions.
There’s a range of tools and technology out there designed to help the busy installer