Lock it … or lose it: theft of and from vans have hit record levels. Neil Nixon considers what the operator can do to deter a would-be thief

Lock it … or lose it: theft of and from vans have hit record levels. Neil Nixon considers what the operator can do to deter a would-be thief – Security

There are many issues that face the LCV operator these days, but few loom as large as security–security of the van itself and of the cargo it is carrying. According to the

Home Office, almost 50,000 LCVs are stolen each year in the UK, as well as 152 million [pounds sterling] worth of business assets being transported by vans. There are numerous products available to prevent theft, as well as built-in solutions offered by the vehicle manufacturers, but broadly speaking these fall into three categories–locking, alarming and tracking. Not forgetting a measure of forethought and common sense.

Keep it locked

Firstly, vans must be easy to lock, ideally centrally. Even now, surprisingly few vans have central locking as standard, although it it must be considered as a useful option. Ford, Renault and Vauxhall, however, are exceptions, with other manufacturers committed to joining them.

Where standard locking is insufficient–and it usually is–there is almost certainly a product available to meet the need–and these solutions are getting ever-more complex to deter the resourceful thief.

New from Deister Electronic is the VanLoxx, a security system that uses radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to automatically lock doors and activate an immobiliser when the driver leaves the vehicle. VanLoxx monitors remote transponders incorporated into the van driver’s wristwatch or clothing. As soon as the driver leaves or returns to the vehicle, the system activates and deactivates its security systems electronically, effectively replacing keys and removing the need for driver intervention.

On a similar theme is the Activlock Secure from Maple Fleet Technology. This is an electro mechanical locking system that comes fitted with transponder control, and can be integrated into a GPS system to allow door unlocking either in pre-determined locations or remotely. The system provides automatic locking for all doors, an easy to use transponder opening for outside, backed up by full mechanical opening for deadlock and emergency release.

As a back-up to secure locking, Pentagon Glass-Tech’s SupaGlass product is a superstrong and yet crystal-clear polyester membrane that is heat-sealed to the interior of a vehicle’s windows. It is a unique product and has been awarded the highest security listing by the auditors at Thatcham and has been adopted by Northern Ireland’s Fire Brigade and many police forces as well as by government. The product is now being made available to the commercial fleet sector following a highly successful pathfinding deal with Transco. With hi-jacking on the increase, this product offers greater security to a manned vehicle, as well as helping to keep thieves out when the vehicle is parked.

Set that alarm

The majority of new vans have engine immobilisers fitted, and these are the best alarm-based products to use. Audible and visual alarms are useful, particularly when the vehicle is left parked with its load on board, or for vehicles kitted out with tools or other products.

Alarms work best when they are used in conjunction with other physical deterrents, for example wheel clamps, steering wheel locks, and pedal locks. At the very least, these will slow the would-be vehicle thief down, increasing the likelihood of detection, particularly if the alarm is blaring and the lights are flashing.

Depending where the vehicle is usually parked, particularly overnight, other alarm-based options may be considered. For vehicles parked in a main yard or depot, cameras, fencing, post locks etc can all be used to deter or detect the thief. When a vehicle is parked outside the operators house, however, the best advice is to lock it, alarm it and use a physical means of delaying a getaway, be it with the van or the contents.

Track it all the way

From an insurance viewpoint, and in terms of limiting any impact on your business, location and retrieval of the stolen van is the priority. Utilising the cellular telephone network and localised transmitters, vehicle location systems like Tracker lead police to the stolen vehicle. To date, Tracker has been responsible for the recovery of over 8500 stolen vehicles worth a total of 140 million [pounds sterling], and has led to the arrest of 1385 suspected thieves who were all picked up by police recovering vehicles fitted with a Tracker system. Tracker is operated by all of the UK’s 52 police forces, and offers an invaluable second level of security.

Use some common sense

The greatest incentive for a thief to act is opportunity. Encourage operators not to leave doors open or unlocked, not to leave items on display, and not to park in quiet or unlit areas. Consider what you tell the thief about what is in the van–what does your signwriting say to the opportunist? Try to ensure that rear windows are unglazed or obscured. Remember, the opportunist thief rarely breaks into a plain, unglazed van. If the cargo you are carrying is valuable, encourage operators to vary the route they use. This will deter the organised criminal, who usually targets a high-value cargo.

Finally, educate your drivers to be vigilant and aware of the value and vulnerability of their vehicle and its contents. It is important to also point out, however, that the police are very firm on one point–do not tackle anyone that attempts to take a vehicle or its contents. Contact the police who, assuming you have a tracking system installed, will already be on its tail.

In conclusion, as thieves become more cunning and ingenious, it is probably fair to say that there is no such thing as a theft-proof vehicle. Technology and products can, however, make stealing a van or its contents extremely difficult, and will deter all but the most determined thief.

Remember, if you provide the opportunity, the thief will take it. Don’t … and he won’t.


Siemens Trakbak, provider of terrestrial location and information services, has appointed four companies in the north and east of England to become the inaugural members of a UK-wide network of trakbak Fleet Centres.

Each Fleet Centre will be a regional trakbak centre of excellence for anti-theft systems and advice, specialising in Siemens trakbak technology.

Roger Faulkner, distribution manager trakbak, Siemens VDO Trading Ltd, told Company Van: “Vehicle security has vastly improved in recent years, thanks to the increased emphasis by manufacturers; however, as security systems have improved, thieves are increasingly inclined to bypass these measures by targeting the keys. As a result, vehicle theft has become more sophisticated. To combat this, we are currently developing a regionally-based network of Trakbak Fleet Centres dedicated to building regional communities to counter vehicle theft.”

Siemens Trakbak II was launched in May 2002. It utilises Siemens Datatrak’s low frequency radio network, which locates and tracks vehicles down to street level. As soon as a vehicle equipped with trakbak II is moved illegally, the tracking is activated and the police are informed through the Siemens trakbak National Control Centre.

Importantly, the Police do not require any special equipment within their vehicles, other than communication with the Siemens Trakbak National Control Centre. Consequently, any authorised Police vehicle can be directed to the stolen vehicle.

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