Thieves never quit, and light commercials and their contents remain worryingly vulnerable to theft. 

“It’s a massive problem,” says Suresh Peri, head of commercial and technical at locking and access control specialist Mul-T-Lock. “No matter whether they are parked outside the owner’s house or in a car park, vans are often easy targets, and criminals are getting more creative by the day.”

Says Laura Moran, managing director of vehicle security business TVL Group: “Thieves are constantly trialling new methods of illegal access.”

Better physical security can help to keep them at bay, says Daniel Clark, a van insurance expert at broker Adrian Flux: “Additional security devices above and beyond anything that’s factory-fitted can certainly help, and that includes mechanical locks as well as alarms
and immobilisers.”

Adrian Flux won the 2024 What Van? Van Insurer of the Year award.

Mul-T-Lock can provide a locking system which Peri says is suitable for almost any type of van door.  The MVP1000 comes with a push-to-lock mechanism housed in an aluminium body so that a busy driver can secure the door on which it is mounted without having to hunt around for a key.

The big advantage of the surface-mounted MVP1000 and its heavier-duty MVP2000 stablemate is that a trades person – an electrician or a plumber, say – can install them without having to call in a locksmith. 

“If you’re fitting an MVP1000 then the entire exercise should take no more than seven to ten minutes,” he says. Installing the heftier MVP2000 will take a little longer.

Fit these locks to a van’s rear and sliding side doors and the same key can be used to unlock all of them, says Peri. Additional keys are available, but solely from Mul-T-Lock dealers.

Managers can be issued with a master key which can be used to unlock all the doors secured with MVP1000/MVP2000 throughout a van fleet.

Though effective, MVP1000 and MVP2000 are not overly-expensive, says Peri. 

“The recommended retail prices are £85 for the former, and £135 for the latter,” he says. “We know of some operators who are so concerned about security that they have fitted two of our locking systems to each of the load area doors on their vehicles.”

Both MVP1000 and MVP2000 have a clear and obvious presence on the doors to which they are fitted. 

Recently the subject of a management buy-out, Locks 4 Vans is finding that there is growing interest in what it describes as its statement locks; locks that stand out on the exterior of a vehicle’s door and act as a visual deterrent to thieves.

“Demand for our L4V Statement Lock has more than doubled year-on-year, with the Diamond Statement Lock and its anti-drilling and anti-cutting properties taking centre stage,” says marketing manager, Sam Woollard.

The company has been promoting its electronic slam-lock, which automatically secures a van’s door when it is slammed shut. Nor are the roller-shutter doors often fitted to box and Luton bodies being ignored, with both slam-locks and deadlocks figuring in the firm’s product portfolio. 

Other measures to enhance physical security can be taken alongside the installation of locks. 

More and more customers are requesting rear window guards, Locks 4 Vans reports. Several vans have come onto the market in recent times with glazed hatch-type back doors; and glass can be shattered.

Install a guard and a criminal will be unable to reach into the vehicle’s cargo bay and steal items even if he succeeds in smashing the door’s glazing.

While there is always the risk that alarms will be ignored or treated as a nuisance, they are still worth considering. Locks 4 Vans is now offering a separate alarm for pick-up hardtops which are not always wired into the rest of the truck.

Locks and their attendant technology are steadily becoming more sophisticated. 

TVL’s Protect+ package includes so-called floating anti-drill pins installed inside the lock’s cylinder aimed at preventing thieves from picking the lock. Anti-drill plates are provided to defend the lock’s mechanism against being attacked or manipulated from the vehicle’s exterior.

The locks come with a patented high-security dimple key designed to prevent illegitimate copies from being made. 

Replacement keys are only available directly from TVL and will only be issued once requests are validated using the Police National Computer (PNC) and the International Security Register (ISR). Legitimate owners are verified by cross-checking a unique code issued with each key – stored on the ISR – against the van’s registration on the PNC, which can be used to flag whether it has been marked as stolen.

Perhaps the biggest problem with locks is that they will only work if the driver remembers to close the door that they are attached to; and harassed drivers on multi-drop work with armfuls of packages may forget to shut that door and ensure it is locked securely.

Telematics specialist HH Driveright can remind them to do so with the GM 2020. 

If a driver walks away from his vehicle without locking it, it triggers an audible warning reminding him to do so. 

If he fails to respond then the van is automatically immobilised after ten seconds. Depending on the vehicle, GM 2020 may also be able to lock all the doors automatically, although it will not of course be able to do so if they have been left wide open. 

“Eight out of 10 drivers do not lock their van while delivering a parcel,” says the company.

Says Clark: “Always lock your van when it is left unattended and that includes when you’re just popping in and out of somewhere for a minute or two. You can never be too safe.”

Keep your keys secure, and if you have to park your van somewhere overnight, then ensure it is in a well-lit area. Park it close to a wall if you possibly can in such a way that the rear or nearside doors cannot be accessed.

Never leave valuable items such as tablets or smartphones lying around in the cab. The same goes for valuable power tools.

If you cannot take them with you for some reason, then hide them. Many vans have hidden compartments under the passenger seat.

Alternatively you can lock them away out of sight in the load area.

If you employ drivers, then check their CVs meticulously before you hire them, and always take up references. The 12-month career gap that an individual cannot account for may
have involved time spent as a guest of His Majesty.

Keyless ignition can make vans vulnerable to theft. If you have a van fitted with such a system and regularly park on your drive or outside your house, then store the keys in a Faraday pouch.

It is alas not unknown for a driver to be confronted by a thief who takes the keys to their vehicle at knifepoint. If that happens, then the driver should hand over the keys immediately and not try to prevent the van and its contents from being driven away.

If the stolen vehicle is equipped with GM 2020 however, and the device has been configured accordingly, then HH Driveright can immobilise it remotely when the thief next stops. The van’s location can be pinpointed by the device, and the police alerted.

HH Driveright also offers the S7 GPS tracker. It sends alerts to the owner via a dedicated call centre if it suspects somebody is attempting to steal a van, then tracks the vehicle if the theft is successful. The police can then be informed.

An immobiliser can be added to S7 as an option.

While van manufacturers have been periodically criticised for equipping their products with basic and easily overcome security devices on the production line, they are by no means ignoring the responsibility they have to frustrate thieves.

TVL has worked with Ford for several years. Featuring a high-security cylinder designed to prevent the driver’s door from being picked open, its RepLock has been available as a factory-fit option on the big blue oval’s light commercials since 2018.

It has developed three factory-fit anti-theft packages for Ford which have recently been upgraded, with more protection around key components; and with the new Transit Custom particularly in mind.

The SlamHandle Security pack features latch shields on the rear and side load area doors, and automatically locking doors. The HookLock Security pack embraces a front door wiring
loom guard, deadlocks on the driver and passenger doors, and hook locks on the side and rear doors.

The ArmourShell Security pack offers the same benefits as the HookLock option but with the added visual deterrent of external semi-automatic locks on the side and rear doors. They have anti-drill inserts and a hardened steel locking bolt.

So will fitting extra security systems and taking additional precautions result in a cut in insurance costs?

“Many insurers do indeed offer premium discounts for fitting additional security items,” says Clark. “However a lot depends on the company and the scenario it is faced with, because they’re all different; and if the fitting of a security device is a policy requirement, then a discount may not be applicable.”