VAN SECURITY: It's a lock out
16 October 2007
One of the simplest ways of preventing thieves from reaching your valuable cargo and precious tools is to fit better or additional locks, writes Steve Banner
There's no denying that the locks fitted to vans on the production line have improved considerably over the past few years.
That doesn't mean, however, that security shouldn't be beefed up even further.
One of the most important steps you can take is to fit better quality door locks than the standard fit items, or supplementary locks, to make the lives of thieves even more difficult, particularly when the consequences of theft - the loss of a cargo or tools - can be so dire.
In fact, the prospect of replacing what is in many respects irreplaceable can prompt some to leave their trade altogether, abandoning skills built up over many years.
So far as vans on multi-drop delivery work are concerned one of the best steps that can be taken is to fit slamlocks. As their name suggests, they lock automatically as soon as the door is slammed and can only be opened again using a key.
They can either be deployed as a substitute for the vehicle manufacturer's lock barrel or fitted alongside it with the cam linked to the door securing mechanism.
Using a different approach to slamlocking to achieve the same end, Activelock OE from Maple Fleet Services interfaces with the vehicle's existing central locking system. The result is that whenever a door is closed, it automatically locks.
Slamlocks are designed to resist being picked or drilled and are typically protected from interference by shielding. Expresslock's Tough Lock for, instance, is surrounded by three steel shields, each 2mm thick.
"When it comes to light commercial theft, smashing windows makes a lot of noise, so thieves prefer to attack other parts of the vehicle which are known to be vulnerable," says a spokesman for Armaplate. "The most common of these by far are the areas around the door locks, so you should make every effort to provide them with protection."
Armaplate offers a system that completely encases them. A stainless steel plate defends the outside of the door - visual deterrents can prompt thieves to try their luck elsewhere - and is reinforced by another steel plate on the inside. The exterior plate has threaded studs on the reverse side that go through the door skin and the steel backing plate, and the three layers are bonded together with 10mm locking nuts.
"The barrier that is created has an ultra-slim profile that prevents it from being gripped and torn through the weak door skin," says the spokesman, who points out that the drawback of fitting alternatives such as hasps and staples is that while they look impressive, they're often easy to tear off because their bulk means that the thief has something that can be gripped with a tool.
Armaplate can also supply a slamlock called the ArmaLock.
Some operators favour deadlocks. Designed to resist attack, often fitted as supplementary protection and working independently of the vehicle's factory-fitted locking system, they have to be physically locked and unlocked using a key. Locks 4 Vans markets a package under the Euroslam banner that includes both slamlocks and deadlocks, while Maple offers them under the Vanguard brand.
Electronically controlled locks can be installed too. Locks 4 Vans offers Diablock, a system that uses 28mm electro-magnetic bolts to secure the rear and side load area doors. They can be controlled using an on-off switch in the cab, by the vehicle's central locking system, or locked or unlocked whenever the van's alarm is armed or disarmed.
Expresslock provides an electronic locking package controlled by a fob/zapper, a credit card-sized transponder, or by a RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) tag.
"No matter what type of lock kit you fit, it should be specific to the door of the vehicle concerned rather than a generic package," contends Locks 4 Vans' managing director, Christopher Batterbee.
The fit of a generic kit may not be exact enough, he argues, and that little bit of vulnerability could give the thief the opportunity he needs.
Batterbee also says locks need to be capable of standing up to dirty and dusty conditions, and bad weather as well as to thieves: "Our lock cylinders have been subjected to 500 hours of salt mist spray testing," he says.
Batterbee concludes:?"Demand for extra locks for vans is strong and probably growing," he says. "This suggests that people are realising that vehicle manufacturers are not supplying the level of protection that they should."