When a Honda Pilot was left idling outside a New York City bank, a North Carolina man on what was described as a “one man crime spree” seized the opportunity to escape in the vehicle. Unfortunately for him, the Pilot's owner had a Linxup tracking device installed in the car. Although her phone was also taken with the vehicle, police were able to download the free Linxup mobile app to an officer's phone, log in to the woman's account, and track the vehicle over the Brooklyn Bridge. The suspect was apprehended and the woman's vehicle was returned. (New York Daily News, Sept. 3, 2015)
Vehicle theft is a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States, often leading to the loss of expensive property and hours of downtime while you file a police report, make an insurance claim, and replace the stolen vehicles and equipment.
Every vehicle is a target, including fleet vehicles, which can be an even more tempting mark than personal vehicles. Despite the prevalence of vehicle and equipment theft, protecting fleet vehicles and business assets remain among the most significant challenges faced by fleet managers across the country.
Most fleet vehicle and equipment thefts are crimes of opportunity. “Smash and grab” thefts are especially common, and typically occur when drivers are only away from their vehicles for a short time, such as when they are making a delivery, picking up cargo, or completing a sales and service call. All it takes is a few moments and the right opportunity – an open window or valuable equipment left on the front seat is all a thief needs to make a move.
Because they are often well marked and contain valuable equipment, fleet vehicles can be attractive prey for opportunistic thieves.
20% of fleets experience three or more stolen vehicles per year, and a single stolen fleet vehicle can cost your business up to $50,000.
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), nearly 1,000 pieces of commercial equipment are stolen every month.
Logos and company names can indicate whether valuable equipment may be stored inside a fleet vehicle, which can make your fleet vehicles an attractive and lucrative target. Information like your company address can also tell thieves where they can find similar vehicles containing the same valuable equipment. Maintain your privacy and eliminate this opportunity by not putting your address on your fleet vehicles; instead, include your phone number and website.
The simplest way to reduce the chances that your fleet will fall victim to theft is to make it more difficult for would-be thieves to break into your vehicles. There are a number of tactics your drivers can implement to keep your vehicles and equipment safe and secure in the field. Here are some of the most effective preventive measures:
An obstacle like a locked door is often enough to discourage thieves from targeting your vehicles – it's one thing to simply open an unlocked door, but it's another entirely for a thief to smash a window and gain access to your vehicle and equipment.
Visible valuable equipment makes your vehicle an easy mark. Encourage your drivers not to leave valuables in their fleet vehicles at any time; if they must leave valuables in their vehicle, make sure they are covered or hidden.
In addition to wasting fuel and money, leaving your vehicle running while you complete a service call gives thieves plenty of opportunity to gain access to your vehicle without difficulty.
The Arizona Automobile Theft Authority estimates that nearly 20% of all stolen vehicles have a key in the ignition or somewhere else in the vehicle. Keeping a spare key in your fleet vehicles may come in handy, but experienced thieves know where to look, and they won't hesitate to take advantage of your unintentional lapse in security.
Tinted windows make it more difficult to see inside your vehicle, which in turn makes your vehicles less enticing targets. Safety glass is more expensive, but it's also a more secure alternative to tinting your windows. Metal mesh is by far the best theft deterrent.
A well-lit parking lot is a secure parking lot. Installing fences and security cameras are also excellent ways to secure your lots and prevent theft. If your employees take your vehicles home or off-site for the evening, make sure they park in safe, brightly lit locations or in their garage.
Anti-theft devices like GPS trackers are powerful theft deterrents. Without a tracking device, it may be hours before you are even aware that a theft has occurred. But with features like alerts for unauthorized use and minute-by-minute location tracking when the vehicle is in use, GPS tracking devices can also help you quickly recover your stolen vehicles and equipment.
The Honda Pilot owner wasn't the only customer to report the return of stolen property. Terry Stage in Hamilton, Ohio, was able to locate and recover his stolen fleet vehicle:
"Our GPS tracker found our stolen vehicle. The thief was stomping on the device when the police arrived."
Lori Bradford at Mr. Trans in Bowling Green, Kentucky had a similar experience:
"If we did not have those devices we would have lost a truck, trailer, and the cargo a few weeks ago due to a theft."
In fact, anti-theft devices like GPS trackers are so effective at reducing theft that many insurance companies offer discounts on your fleet vehicle insurance if you have them installed. Just make sure it's obvious that your vehicles are equipped with anti-theft devices by adding decals or other labelling.
No vehicle is entirely immune to theft, including fleet vehicles. Many vehicle and equipment thefts are crimes of opportunity, and the easiest way to prevent them is to reduce or remove the opportunity.
Simple tactics like locking doors, hiding valuable equipment, and installing anti-theft devices like GPS trackers go a long way to securing your fleet against vehicle and equipment theft.