We hear stories about vehicle thefts and “smash and grabs” all too often. A driver leaves their vehicle idling to warm the interior or to quickly run into a convenience store, gas station, etc., they return and — BOOM —their vehicle is gone.
They may also make the mistake of leaving something in plain sight in their vehicle. When they return, a window is smashed and their computer bag is gone.
Idling vehicles or vehicles with items in plain sight are a thief’s best friend and an invitation to those who are on the prowl at convenience stores, truck stops, gas stations, parking lots, job sites, company yards, neighborhoods and just about everywhere else, looking to take what is not theirs. All it takes for them to be successful is the right opportunity and a minute or two.
Fleet vehicles make an especially tempting target, since they are often well marked and can contain valuable equipment. Take a look at these fleet theft statistics from an Automotive Fleet industry report:
- 20% of fleets have three or more vehicles stolen a year
- 85% of fleets report a loss of more than $1,000 in fleet vehicle contents
- 75% lose more than $1,000 in driver downtime for each stolen vehicle
Preventing vehicle, equipment and fuel theft is one of the greatest challenges that fleet managers face. The loss of an asset is bad enough. Factor in the hours needed to file a police report, make an insurance claim, replace or repair what was stolen, and you are looking at a lot of downtime — downtime that could be reduced by simple actions and preventative measures that help keep assets more secure and thieves more effectively at bay.
Let’s take a look at some of those.
Keep Doors Locked and Control Visibility— A locked door is an obstacle for thieves and is a simple and effective deterrent for keeping thieves from vandalizing your vehicle.
Also, limit what company information appears on your vehicles, as info. and markings can be valuable clues to thieves. For example, your address tells a thief where to find additional vehicles and equipment, so leave it off your vehicles and emphasize your website, contact numbers and social media outlets instead.
Keep Valuables Out of Vehicles—Valuable equipment is an easy mark for thieves. While it is not always practical for drivers to remove equipment from vehicles, tell them, if it must remain in the vehicle, to make sure it is covered, hidden or locked.
Never Leave Vehicles Idling—Even in the coldest weather, instruct your drivers to never leave their vehicle running without them in it. All it takes is a few seconds for a thief to slip in the driver’s seat and take off.
Install Fencing, Lighting, Motion Sensors and Cameras in Company Yards—Vehicle yards are popular with fuel thieves. Fencing and bright lighting make your yard more visible and, thereby, less of a target. Additionally, security cameras are both a deterrent and an effective means for catching criminals should a theft occur, as are motion sensors.
If your drivers take their vehicles home at night or park them off-site, have policies in place regarding how vehicles are stored and protected.
Don’t Keep Spare Keys in Vehicles and Control Key Access—Keeping a spare key in vehicles is never a good idea—experienced thieves know where to look. To keep better track of keys, have a key control policy in place or look into implementing a key control management solution that stores and tracks vehicle keys, 24/7, so you will always know who has what key and for what vehicle.
Secure Vehicle Windows—Tinting windows makes it more difficult for thieves to see what is in vehicles and, to that end, makes vehicles less of a target. Safety glass is a better option, though more expensive than tinting. For the best protection, many fleet managers feel that metal mesh is the way to go.
Implement a GPS Tracking Solution—GPS tracking solutions can be a thief’s worst enemy. With a tracking device in your vehicles, you can be instantly aware that a theft has occurred. And, with location tracking, instantly know the vehicle’s location, so you can quickly recover the vehicle before extensive and expensive damage can occur.
To get a better idea of GPS tracking capabilities, take a look at PS Energy’s etrac solution.