The Magazine for LCV Fleet Operators
Van security remains a major issue for fleet operators, yet additional locks and alarms are still often only offered on the options list, says... Safe and Secure: fleet operator safety

Theft from light commercial vehicles, along with theft of the actual van, has long been a concern for companies of all sizes. However, while the disappearance of a single van might be an expensive inconvenience for a national fleet, it could be devastating for an owner operator, especially one who keeps their working tools in the vehicle.

According to a 2020 Van Security Report by Logistics UK, van theft grew year on year from 2014 to 2018, though it started to decline slightly in 2019, down by 4.8% in terms of vehicles taken and by 10% in thefts from vans. The full numbers haven’t been revealed yet for 2020, but they will almost certainly be thrown by the pandemic, given the fact that some vans were unused for months on end last year.

In terms of those who suffered van theft, 47.8% of respondents reported that the vehicle was taken from outside the driver’s home, either from
a driveway or from the road. Over 26% of vans were taken from off-street
parking, while a remarkable 30.4%
of respondents said that vans had
been stolen from a depot. When it came to theft from a van, 38.2% reported losses from vehicles parked on-street near a driver’s home, with 23.5% on the driveway. 

When asked if their vehicles had any extra security fitted, a massive 76% reported that the vans were equipped with tracking devices, while 40% had alarms. A further 40% of those reporting theft claimed that they had installed additional locks, over and above those supplied from the factory by the manufacturer. 

It is often reported that as a country with a lot of fleet buyers, van specifications remain relatively low in the UK, to keep entry-level prices to a minimum. Indeed, looking through various manufacturer specification sheets, you need to climb a way up the trim ladder before alarms and deadlocks become a standard feature from some firms. Despite that, the Logistics UK report states that 80% of respondents would be prepared to pay extra for factory-fitted security measures.

Ford and TVL join forces

That’s certainly the case at Ford, as the company has recently announced a deal with TVL Security to install additional locking systems on Transit and Transit Custom at the Kocaeli factory. TVL’s Replock has been offered as a factory-fit for some years, but now the two companies are increasing the offer, to suit a wider range of van buyers. The locks will be offered as packs, based on the firm’s most popular products, currently fitted in the aftermarket.

“It was a natural extension of our close working relationship with Ford to develop our range of aftermarket security products for factory fit options,” said Laura Moran, managing director of TVL Group.

“The TVL innovation team have been collaborating with the Ford engineering team for several months to design and manufacture exclusive versions of our products, that are positioned in the vehicle to deliver optimum performance and protection for van operators.”

“We know that more than 50% of van users apply additional locks to their vehicles and spend many hundreds of pounds in doing so,” said Simon Hurr, application specialist, physical vehicle security at Ford.

“We have further research to suggest that as many as 80% would pay extra for factory fitted security.”

By having additional locking systems installed at the production stage, vans can be delivered to the dealer ready to go, with no requirement for additional work or delays in delivery. The TVL locking systems will also be covered as a factory option under the main vehicle warranty and the cost of installation can be included in the financing of the van.

Market availability

Standard van locking has certainly progressed over the years. Peugeot for example now fits deadlocks
on all Expert and Boxer models, with an alarm standard on Professional trim and above. However, at Citroën, while there are alarm systems on
all but the most basic trim levels, the company doesn’t have additional
locking systems on offer for its Relay van line.

Mercedes-Benz Vans includes double locks and an alarm as standard on Vito and Sprinter models. The company recently launched the optional Urban Guard system too, which includes an anti-theft alarm, plus tow-away protection. The system is able to detect changes in position and movement in the vehicle interior, triggering visual and audible warnings through the Mercedes Me app.

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles offers a Business Pack on lower trim models of both Transporter and Crafter that includes an alarm, which is standard on the higher trim levels. Take-up is around 25% of Transporter customers and 60% of Crafter buyers, though it is worth noting that the Business Pack also includes air conditioning and parking sensors, which may the reason for some customers opting in.

VW also offers Safelock deadlocking and slam locks that lock the rear doors as soon as the door is shut. There is also an additional locking system on offer, developed primarily for the courier and pharma markets and now being installed on all Alliance Healthcare vans. Once the driver is out of the van, all doors will lock within two seconds. This is currently installed by VW’s Customised Solutions unit, but depending on general market take-up, it could become a standard option in the future.

Theft prevention

The bad news is, if someone is determined to get into a van, they will. A van is basically a large metal box with relatively thin sides, and thieves will cut through the sheet metal if they really want to get inside, or physically rip the door from its hinges. The slightly better news, is that this is still relatively rare, the majority of van theft is opportunistic and there are things that can be done to help make your vehicles more secure.

There are a host of companies offering additional van security, such as TVL, Locks4Vans, ProtectAVan and Armaplate. Stoplocks work by in effect linking the two rear doors together, to prevent them being prised apart. They can also be fitted to side doors. Slamlocks, as the name suggests, automatically lock the door when it is shut. These can be retro-fit but still work with the van’s existing locking system. Deadlocks tend to be used when locking the van for a longer time, such as at night, and may require the use of a separate key.

In each case, when fitting additional security, it is worth mentioning it to your insurance company, as in some cases this can result in reduced premiums.