LCV SECURITY: Preventative medicine
12 October 2009
The standard of line-fit security on vans has never been better, but there are plenty of cost-effective aftermarket products out there to beef it up if necessary. Steve Banner looks at the options
It's an unfortunate consequence of any recession that as the job market declines, incidents of theft tend to rise as some people turn to crime to replace lost income.
Like any other product, LCVs are a potential target. In fact, insurer Direct Line reports that theft from vans is becoming a severe problem. It states that each day more than 500 are broken into across the UK, adding that some 35,000 suffered more than one break-in over the past 12 months. "London is the worst area, with over one in three vans hit," says a spokesman.
In every economic downturn, though, there are always companies that prosper, and in this case it is the firms that make security products.
"We're getting deluged with inquiries for our security products from small businesses that run one or two vans," reports Armaplate operations director Tom McQuiggan. "In fact, the influx is quite dramatic. A lot of them are contacting us either because they've already had their vehicle broken into, or because a fellow tradesmen has suffered a break-in and they want to protect themselves in case they're next."
Armaplate can supply steel plates that surround a van door's lock, and possibly the door handle too, to protect them from attack.
"It's easy to install - 92% of the reinforcing plates we install are fitted by the end-users themselves, and makes for a powerful visual deterrent," says McQuiggan. "Opportunist thieves will see it and go elsewhere." Protecting five doors will cost approximately £250.
One advantage of these plates is that they are fit-and-forget items and do not require the driver to carry extra keys to make them work. They can also be used to conceal damage caused when a thief has attempted to punch a hole in the door's skin with a screwdriver.
It's a lock-out
Many operators favour slam locks, which lock automatically when the van's door is slammed and have to be unlocked using a key. Good examples include Expresslock's R1 Snaplock and S1 Snaploc for rear and side load doors respectively, and which form part of an Expresslock range. The former costs £145 while the latter is £155. Both weigh more than 2kg and are solidly constructed.
"They're easy to fit too," says Expresslock MD Tony Withey. "It should only take around an hour."
Deadlocks, which cannot be opened without a key, are worth considering too, and are especially useful when it comes to protecting cab doors; even if a thief smashes the glass, he won't be able to get the door open.
For even more protection, consider cargo area doors with transponder-controlled electro-mechanical shoot-bolt locks such as Activlock Secure from Maple Fleet Services. Diablock from Locks 4 Vans works along similar lines.
Thieves sometimes attack the central locking system's wiring loom with the intention of releasing all the vehicle's doors. To counter this, Locks 4 Vans markets a device called Cable Guard that can protect it from such interference. Meanwhile, hefty locking bars that fit across the steering wheel act as a useful visual deterrent, too, and can be moved from one van to another easily. They can be forcibly removed, but that will take a thief a bit of extra time.
Obviously, drivers can make their vans vulnerable to theft by leaving the keys in the ignition while delivering a parcel or paying for fuel. To get around this, Maple offers a clever device called Drivelock that will immobilise the vehicle when the handbrake is released by somebody not wearing an identifying belt tag, even if the engine is running.
It's certainly worth thinking about having an alarm fitted. While they tend to be ignored by passers-by, only a really cool-headed thief will carry on breaking into a van while a siren is howling away at maximum decibels. Maple offers one suitable for light commercials under the Acer Red Alarm banner, but, of course, an alarm can be selected as an option when a new van is ordered from a dealer. You should also specify a full-height solid steel bulkhead if that's not standard. While this will clearly cause difficulties if you're used to folding the passenger seat flat in order to accommodate extra-long items, a bulkhead will stop anybody who breaks into the cab from getting into the cargo area and getting at whatever you happen to be carrying.
If the worst comes to the worst and your light commercial does disappear, then any tracking system you happen to have fitted should enable it to be found, assuming of course that the thief isn't Smart enough to disable it. It may even alert you to your vehicle's imminent departure. Geo-fencing can ensure you are alerted by text message if the van is moved out of a certain area - your yard, say - between certain hours.
Unfortunately a lot of thefts are inside jobs committed by employees, so take up references and peruse their CVs carefully before you hire them. That two-year gap in their employment history they cannot account for could be the time they spent within the walls of Wormwood Scrubs.