Over 38,000 people have now signed an online petition urging the government to take prompt action to combat the rapidly escalating problem of tool theft from vans and the theft of the vehicles themselves (visit petition.parliament.uk and key ‘van’ into the search box in order to sign it).

The petition to Parliament has received the wholehearted support of Van Guard. Best-known for its roof bars and racks and its load area racking, the company also supplies window grilles, bulkheads and lockable onboard tool stores along with lockable pipe carriers and ladder clamps.

“We exhibit at trade shows around the country several times a year in places as far apart as Harrogate and London, and over the last 18 months tradespeople coming to our stand have been telling us that theft is a concern for them,” says Van Guard sales and marketing exec John Land. “They’ve either had their own van broken into or know somebody who has.”

Their worries are amply justified if figures compiled by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles are anything to go by. Research it released last autumn reveals that tool theft from light commercials saw a 15% increase during the previous three years, landing hard-pressed businesses with a bill for over £46m.

A record 23,859 incidents took place in 2017/18 alone according to police figures, says VW.
The area where your tools are most likely to be stolen, the brand reveals, is central London. The Met Police records more than 8,000 cases annually costing businesses roughly £11m in total. Northumbria with 4,000 cases and West Yorkshire with 1,000 reports are second and third respectively.

If electricians, plumbers, joiners and other tradespeople have all their tools stolen then they are unable to keep working until they can acquire new ones – and that can take time. Downtime costs firms approximately £550 per van per day, VW calculates.

So what sort of measures can be taken to combat theft? Better physical security is vitally important, so consider fitting additional locks to your van’s doors, advises Dean Cassar, sales and marketing executive at Locks 4 Vans.

Slamlocks make sense if you’re a courier and in and out of a van umpteen times a day making deliveries because they lock the door automatically when you push it shut. Just make sure not to leave your keys in the vehicle and lock yourself out.

If you are a tradesperson who may be working at a single location then a deadlock that has to be locked with a key makes more sense, but ensure it is positioned as far up the door as possible, Cassar advises.

“These days thieves can literally peel the door off a van from one of the top corners,” he warns – the consequence, he says, of so many vans being more lightly constructed to keep their unladen weight down and their payload capacity up. A strategically positioned deadlock can make “peel-and-steal” rather more difficult.

Thieves can overcome a van’s electronic security systems by accessing its onboard diagnostics (OBD) port. Locks 4 Vans can provide a shield for the port to stop this happening, Cassar says. It can also supply a shield for the vehicle’s catalytic convertor. “People still want to steal them because they contain precious metals,” he remarks.

One way of boosting security is to provide extra protection for the van’s factory-fitted door locks.

Armaplate of Bolton offers Blockade, which uses three layers of steel to defend the lock mechanism against interference. It protects the vulnerable area around the door handle, which criminals attack to access the lock mechanism and linkages. A fit-and-forget device, it requires no extra keys or input from the driver.

The firm also offers a clever device called Defend-A-Step. It is a combined rear step and security bar that can be flipped upwards and locked to prevent the back doors from being opened.


Fitting a deadlock can prevent door ‘peel and steal’ thefts


Van Vault class=

Lockable boxes bolted to a van provide extra security for tools

Extra security for tools is provided by the hefty lockable onboard boxes Van Vault can supply, which can be bolted to your van.

“If a peel-and-steal thief gets through a van’s doors, and is then confronted by one of our bright yellow vaults, then he’ll probably give up and go and try someone else’s vehicle,” says marketing manager Deborah Hunt. “We equip our vaults with built-in locks designed to resist picking, drilling and cutting.”

One of the firm’s most popular models is Van Vault 2, which tips the scales at 48kg. Made from heavy-duty steel it costs around £200.

“That’s not a lot to pay if you have £3,000 to £5,000 worth of tools in your van,” she observes.

Nor is it always practical to take them out of your vehicle every night, Hunt adds, so you need somewhere secure onboard where you can lock them away.

The in-vehicle secure storage box specialist has just upgraded its product line-up with a new range designed to make life harder for thieves. All the keys areas of attack have been strengthened, says the company, and include a cross-bar-reinforced lid said to be next to impossible to prise open. A VaultLock locking system has been introduced that sits deep within the body of the box and is shielded by a hardened steel plate.

A wide-mouth drop-front is now available to provide better access to the container’s contents and a recessed lock stops the key from being damaged if it happens to be left in.

Old-fashioned money is supposed to be disappearing as a means of payment, yet some businesses still need to deal in cash and transport it in their vehicles. Checkmate Devices can provide a variety of different onboard safes weighing anywhere from 6kg to 29kg, which are bolted into the vehicle.

If you are having a load area racking system fitted that includes drawers and cabinets, then make sure they are lockable.

“We’ll be adding lockable drawers and cabinets to our range of racks although as yet we don’t have a time-scale for their introduction,” Van Guard’s Land says.

Will the firm be adding van door locks to its portfolio? “We’ve got a sister business called Van Guard Full Fit that can fit them along with ply linings for load areas, tow-bars and a variety of other products,” he replies.

Van Guard suggests a few common-sense measures that should make your van less easy to steal: always try to park it with its doors against a wall in a well-lit area and preferably one that is covered by CCTV; always lock it even if you are only going to be away for a couple of minutes; and never leave it unattended with the keys in the ignition.

Meanwhile, alarms are now available which will send a text message to the van owner’s phone if triggered, as are trackers, which may help the owner retrieve a stolen vehicle, although it is, of course, always preferable to prevent it from being taken to begin with.

Key security is also vitally important. Lock the keys away in a safe or desk drawer if a van is being parked in a yard or on a domestic drive overnight, and never leave the keys on a table near your front door. It is not unknown for thieves to poke a fishing rod through the letter box, hook the keys and use them to make off with the vehicle.

Trailers are stolen too, but devices are available that can make thieves’ lives a lot more difficult, says Paul Jones, marketing manager at AL-KO’s Southam, Warwickshire operation. Well-known for its range of trailer components, it acquired Bradley Doublelock, another specialist in the field, back in 2014.

Various types of locking device are available, designed to prevent a trailer from being uncoupled from its towing vehicle and stolen, or coupled to a thief’s vehicle and towed away if left standing on its own unattended.

If trailers are equipped with landing legs then they can be locked into the down position to make the trailer more difficult to tow away, and trailers can also be secured with wheel clamps. So can vans.

“Our advice is to fit as much security as you possibly can,” Jones states. “Put as many deterrents as you can in the thief’s way. More is better.”

Admittedly such devices will not deter the professional criminal who is determined to steal your trailer and has the knowledge and equipment to overcome them. They will slow him down, however, and should certainly frustrate the opportunist thief, who will then look elsewhere.