It's a sad fact of life that if you have anything valuable in this world, there are any number of lowlifes who will be out to steal it from you. Such is the life of the van operator.
Vans are like a magnet to thieves. After all, they are basically big tin cans potentially full of valuable cargo. And the bad news is that there is very little you can do to stop of really determined thief. The good news, though, is that most of these scumbags are cowardly opportunists who will go for the easiest option. So if you follow our advice, chances are they will look at your vans, decide they aren't worth trying to break into and go on to someone else’s further down the road.
But it's not just vehicles themselves and their cargos that are at risk. Your drivers can be subject to slam-ons and van jacking and it's important to keep them safe too. Sadly, too many van fleet operators only realise the importance of security measures when they have already been subjected to an attack. So the time to act is now.
1 Buy the right vans Your security concerns should start when you buy your vans. Most, sadly, don't have alarms as standard, for example, while many smaller vans, and some bigger ones for that matter, don't have solid bulkheads. Both of these items are a must for the security-conscious van fleet. De-glazed rear doors and bonnet locks are also a good idea.
Additionally, there are other security devices such as slam locks (which lock as soon as you close the door) and deadlocks (which can't be opened from the inside).
Ask if these items are a standard fitment before you buy your vans. If they aren't then we recommend getting one of the aftermarket security companies to fit you some nice big locks that will tell thieves to look elsewhere.
2 Fit an alarm/tracking device As stated above, an alarm is an absolute must. If your vans are expensive new ones or if you carry high value goods it's also worth considering fitting tracking devices such as the ones offered by Tracker so, in the event of a theft, the vehicle can be followed by the police. By the way, most Citroën vans have tracking devices fitted as standard as part of the package; a point to bear in mind when buying new vans.
3 Avoid labelling your cargo If your boxes have things like ‘Finest Scotch Whisky’ written on them and you don't have a bulkhead fitted, any low life who happens to be passing will immediately be drawn to your van. Your only hope in this instance is that said miscreant will drink himself into a stupor nearby and collapse in a heap by your van; an unlikely scenario to be honest! If goods have to be labelled, simply give them a serial number or suchlike and put them in plain cases.
4 Keep uniforms and documents Check that staff return official clothing and company ID documents to you when they leave your employment. These items can be useful to a thief trying to claim authority to collect goods. Consignment notes and other official documentation should be kept secure for the same reason.
5 Park in the right places One sure way of getting your vans broken into is by leaving them parked in nice dark corners, giving a thief plenty of time to break in. Ensure they are always parked under the brightest lights possible and in full view of anyone passing by.
6 Always lock up You'd be surprised how many drivers leave their doors open and engines running when making deliveries. It doesn't take long for a thief to nip in and drive away in these circumstances, so doors should always be locked and alarms set, even when the driver is only away from the vehicle for a minute or two.
7 Remove sat navs etc Many drivers have their own sat navs and thieves just love stealing them. So they should always be removed from vehicles (not put in the glovebox!) when they are left. Also, the units leave a tell-tale round mark on the windscreen so these should be wiped off too or thieves might just break in anyway in the hope that the driver has left the unit somewhere in the cab.
8 Hide keys when parking at home Lots of drivers park their vans overnight on their driveways and these vehicles are particularly prone to being stolen or broken into. Most people leave their keys on a hook near the front door so the thief simply has to break into the house and be away.
Keys should always be hidden away somewhere safe. Having said that any determined thug could well subject a household to violence until said keys are given up so it could be argued that a stolen van is a better option than a traumatised family.
9 Beware of van-jacking Van-jacking normally occurs when vehicles stop at traffic lights or junctions and a lot of vans now have locks that activate at 5mph when a journey is started.
So look to operate vehicles that have key fobs with door locking devices built into them that can be programmed to meet individual needs. This means, for example, that the driver’s door only need be unlocked while the passenger and rear doors remain locked. How the key fob is programmed depends on vehicle utilisation and the company’s view of the risk of a theft.
10 Slam-ons — the new menace As if van operators didn't have enough to worry about, we are now hearing about an increase in a crime known as the slam-on, in which vans are targeted by criminals who cause crashes by various means and then claim for bogus injuries incurred.
Vans are particularly vulnerable as the scammers know that they are company vehicles and insurance claims are likely to be settled with fewer questions asked. The best way of avoiding such incidents is to have a dash-mounted camera fitted, although these do tend to be rather expensive. If you get slammed here are a few tips, which are pretty similar to those for any road accident:
• Never admit liability at the scene.
• Do not confront the other party or take any action that you feel might place you at risk.
• Call the police from the scene and report the collision.
• Count the number of occupants in the other vehicle.
• Ask for the names and addresses of all people present.
• Note any distinguishing features of the driver / passengers. This is useful evidentially in disproving subsequent insurance frauds.