Yellow van reversing

To Van Security

If you rely on your van for business, it’s vital you not only keep it running well, but maximise security too. Vans can be a target for opportunistic thieves, especially if they think there’s something valuable inside. Many van owners transport and store expensive tools and equipment. Thieves know this.

Dangers of van theft

Having your van broken into is stressful and can prevent you from carrying on business as usual. It’s a real problem faced by self-employed builders, plumbers and other tradespeople. When a van – and the tools it transports – are your livelihood, having them stolen is a huge headache.

In 2016, tool theft cost the UK’s tradespeople just under £100m (£94,521,600), according to one report. Workers rely on these tools to get the job done, so it’s not surprising theft forces people to miss work and potentially lose out on money coming in. In fact, in the same report, some people were over £14,000 out of pocket after just one break in. Other findings included:


of workers admitted they felt stress and/or anxiety after being stolen from


of tradespeople couldn’t work the next day, with some workers having to take two weeks off


Being unable to work costs 50% of tradespeople at least £500

There’s also the effects on existing customers, and potential reputational damage. It’s a lot for tradespeople to worry about and can quickly have an impact on wellbeing.

UK theft statistics

Car Theft


cars were stolen in 2017-18, up from 75,308 in the 2013-14 financial year.

5 minutes

On average, vehicle theft occurs every five minutes in Britain.


Motors being stolen every day.

Source: This is Money

Van Theft


van or tool thefts in 2017. That was a rise of nearly two-thirds in two years.

23 Minutes

A van is broken into and the tools stolen every 23 minutes.


That’s around 62 thefts every day.

Source: Power Tools 4 U

Unfortunately, car and van theft is on the rise. Criminals are also breaking into vans, not to steal the vehicle, but to take the tools inside. With the average tool theft claim costing £1,692, falling victim is costly. 50% of people asked had even been stolen from more than once. Even more (70%) knew someone who had tools taken from their van.

Around the UK, there are
tool theft hotspots

Please hover over one of the regions.

1. London 2. Sheffield 3. Birmingham 4. Leicester 5. Chelmsford 6. Tunbridge Wells 7. Bristol 8. Nottingham 9. Northampton 10. Reading
Source: Installer Online

How criminals target your

Whether you live and work in one of the hotspots or not, you’ll want to minimise the chance of theft. One of the best ways of doing this is understanding how criminals work.

Of course, many thefts happen in a typical smash-and-grab style. But as vans use more sophisticated technology, criminals have to modernise their methods. They’re pretty savvy and can get past many advances in security. Some experts criticise the police budget cuts too, as fewer officers doesn’t help.

Some of the newer ways criminals are targeting vans include:

Van with peeling

Door Peeling

A lot of vans have sensors in the front, so side and back doors, and even roofs, can be literally peeled back without anything being detected. It’s all down to newer vehicles being made with thinner metal to improve fuel efficiency. Shockingly, thieves don’t need any specialist tools to do this.

Man key fob hacking car

Key-fob Hacking

The radio signal from your keys to the locks on your van can be intercepted and replicated. Criminals can then unlock the vehicle easily using a scanner. In 2018, reports confirmed the rise in keyless van thefts. Up 44% from 2016, 82% of vans were stolen without keys in 2017. The most frequently stolen and recovered van is the Ford Transit, followed by the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.

Yellow van reversing

Maximising Your
Van Security

Did you know there are seven times more light good vehicles than lorries on our roads? According to SMMT, there are more than 3.2 million vans used for business across the UK. That’s a lot of vans which could be targeted. Learning how to maximise security could pay off.

Parking your van safely

Your van is most at risk when you leave it somewhere. Parking securely can deter criminals. After all, most thefts are opportunistic. If you don’t give thieves the opportunity, then they might pass your van by.

Some of these tips might seem simple, but they’re easily forgotten after a busy day at work. Try and get into a routine, and remember to do the following regularly:

Van with tools

Always store your tools elsewhere at night

Take them out of the van and put them somewhere secure – whether that’s at a business storage facility or at home.

UV light with serial number

Mark your property

You can mark your van and all the tools with paint, permanent markers or ultraviolet pens to make sure you’re the recognisable owner if they’re found. Similarly, take photos and keep a note of any serial numbers to prove ownership.

Bike rentals van

Decide on van signage

Van signs can indicate to criminals what types of tools they could find inside. But large displays, including your contact details, can be deterring for criminals who don’t want to pay for a re-spray. It’s up to you.

Well lit van in street

Park somewhere

Something as simple as additional lighting can be enough to deter criminals. They’ll know the risks of being visible to other people who might alert the police.

Van up against wall

Back up against a wall

If possible, reverse your van so the side and back doors can’t be accessed. This stops anyone being able to cut into thinner metals and peel them back to get access to your van. With clever parking, you’ll give them no area to work on these entry points.

GPS tracking on phone

Install GPS tracking

Good quality trackers are off-putting and can help you get a stolen van back. They can be a huge help for the police trying to get your van back to you.

Van with christmas tree

Be aware of riskier times

Throughout the year, there are certain spikes when thieves seem to be more active. These include:

  • The months leading up to Christmas
  • Mondays
  • July
Steering wheel lock

Consider old tactics

They might seem old fashioned, but visible deterrents such as steering and handbrake locks can be effective at making your van a less appealing target.

Sources: The Sun and Simply Business

Types of Locks

To improve your van’s security, many experts recommend taking additional steps to protect your assets. One of the best lines of defence is a decent lock. But where do you start? Some common types of lock include:

Slamlock on van


Vans with slamlocks installed lock up instantly as you shut the door. There’s no risk of forgetting to lock the van or leaving it temporarily unattended. It’s always protected.

Deadlock on van


Harder to pick than other locks because there’s no spring in the locking mechanism, a deadlock will secure the doors with a single bolt. You do need to remember to lock the doors every time you leave the van unattended, though.

Deadlock on van

Catalytic convertor lock

The catalytic converter in your van has particulate filters which contain precious metals. Thieves can easily sell these on. You can buy specialist locks to protect your catalytic converter.


Getting the right insurance

In addition to the usual types of insurance policy (telematics, third party only, third party fire and theft, and comprehensive), there are different levels of cover depending on what you use your van for:

Private van insurance

With this, you’ll be covered for everyday activities like the school run, food shop and any social outings. But it won’t cover you if you use your van for any business purposes – including commuting.

Commercial van insurance

If you use your van for work, you’ll need a commercial policy. These include:

Carriage of own goods

This will give you cover for carrying the equipment and tools you need for your trade. It’s ideal for builders, plumbers and carpenters, but people who use their van to get to and from work would need this type of policy too.

Carriage of goods for hire or reward

For anyone who delivers goods, especially to multiple addresses and customers, you’ll need a specific policy to cover this.


This type of policy tends to cover drivers who take a single load a long way. If your business helps people move house, for instance, you’d need this type of insurance.

If you’re not sure what type of policy you need for your van, chat to a few different insurers to get a better idea of what policy suits your use.

It’s worth bearing in mind that prices will vary. Shop around to get the best deal. If you’ve made any modifications to your van to improve security, you’ll need to inform insurers, too. You might be trying to make your van safer, but it could make your insurance premiums more expensive.

To avoid this, look for Thatcham-approved security systems. It’s considered to be the gold standard by most major insurers. A Thatcham Security Certification is an industry benchmark, and “provides reassurance around the functionality, design and performance of alarms, immobilisers and tracking systems.”

How van owners are
fighting back

If you find yourself a victim of van or tool theft, it can be frustrating waiting for an insurance pay out. What’s more, many people are disappointed with the punishments given to any burglars who are caught. These include community service or a fine.

Fed up with the situation, many tradespeople are committed to raising public awareness and driving change. This includes:

Demanding stronger laws

There’s a call for stronger punishment – for tool theft in particular. A ‘Tool Crime Deserves Time’ petition, with a target of 50,000 signatures, was set up by Lee Watts. “Our Government must look strongly into the growing problem of tool theft from vans and must impose much tougher penalties on those convicted of these crimes,” he writes.

In March 2018, more than 150 vans travelled to Plymouth city centre in convoy to protest the increase in tool thefts in the area. Up and down the country, it’s a problem tradespeople share – and they’re prepared to fight for change.

Sharing tips amongst other tradespeople

There are groups on Facebook, including Tradesmen Against Thieves, as well as websites (e.g. Van Security Talk Group) which share help and advice on stolen vans and tools.

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A Van

Keeping up with general maintenance can help you get the best performance from your van. When your business relies on a fleet or a vehicle, it’s important these vans are not only secure, but also in good condition.

Keeping your business

When your office is your van, you need to look after it. Some of the key areas you can maintain without the need for a mechanic include:

Some of these tips might seem simple, but they’re easily forgotten after a busy day at work. Try and get into a routine, and remember to do the following regularly:

Car tyres


Keeping your tyres roadworthy is a legal requirement. Signs you need to immediately replace your tyres include: any bulges, cuts in the tyre, visible cord or unsecure wheel nuts.

Tyre pressure is particularly important for vans because they carry heavier loads. Rather than relying on visual recognition that your tyres are low on air, make sure you’re checking tyre pressure every week. Look at your manufacturer’s handbook for correct tyre pressures, or check in the inside of the driver door.

Use a tyre pressure gauge to check the levels and add air if needed. Most fuel garages have air pressure machines where you can pre-set the level you need for your van.

The risks of underinflated tyres

The risks of overinflated tyres

Uneven wear and tear
(more likely to need replacing sooner)

More likely to blow

Decreased fuel efficiency

A loss of traction

20 pence piece

When checking your tyres, also look at the tread. In the UK, the legal minimum is 1.6mm but experts recommend around 3mm to get the best performance.

An easy way of checking is the 20p test. If you put a 20p in the tread and can still see the inner line, your depth isn’t enough.

Pouring oil in car


You can easily check and top up the following fluids yourself:



Power steering fluid

Brake fluid

Brake fluid

Windscreen washer

A lot of these will be marked up under the bonnet, with clear maximum limits to fill up to. If you’re not sure, check the handbook.

Van parked on street


You’re legally required to keep your lights in working condition. You can simply check your lights with the help of someone else, but van drivers need to be wary of the need to clean the lights too. Even if they’re working, visibility can be impacted if you’ve driven around dirty building sites.

With regular maintenance, you should be able to keep your van going – and your business running – with minimal downtime. Unfortunately, vans do breakdown. It’s worth considering breakdown cover for the peace of mind.

Making sure your van
passes an MOT

More than 34% of cars and vans in Great Britain initially failed the MOT test in 2017/18, according to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). When you look at class 7 light commercial good vehicles alone, it’s almost 50%. Paying for any fixes and waiting for a re-test can be costly. And most of the common reasons vans fail are preventable:

Area of problem

% of failures

Area of problem

% of failures















Seat belt




Plates and ID


Source: AXA (based on government data on class 7 vehicles)

In May 2018, MOT tests were given a new format. Before, you would have typically received advisory notes with your pass certificate. These may still appear, but are taking a bit of a backseat. Most defects will now come under the following three categories:


These are any issues that have “no significant effect on the safety of the vehicle or impact on the environment.” They won’t cause the vehicle to fail its MOT. It’s still recommended that you repair them as soon as possible, though, to prevent anything getting worse.


These issues “affect the vehicle’s safety, put other road users at risk or have an impact on the environment.” As such, just one major issue will cause your van to fail. You’ll need to get it fixed and have a re-test, but might be able to drive off and return the van later on to be repaired.


These faults have a “direct and immediate risk to road safety” or “serious impact on the environment.” This means your van will automatically fail the MOT, and it’s illegal to drive the vehicle until it’s fixed.

How much will my MOT cost?

There are maximum accounts mechanics can change for an MOT. These are set by the government and based on the vehicle’s class. The maximum charge for vans are:

Class 4


Class 7


Would you choose a ‘greener’ van?

Other recent changes include a push for van drivers to consider the cleanest choices. Currently, vehicle excise duty on all vans is charged at a flat rate of £250. The Government wants to look at how drivers could be incentivised to switch to ‘greener’ models.

Exchequer Secretary Robert Jenrick said the changes so far haven’t done enough to persuade drivers to trade in their vehicles for greener ones. Only one in every 200 vans bought in 2016/17 fell into the ‘ultra-low emission’ category.

To encourage drivers to buy lower emissions vehicles, the government is considering changing the duty to a first-year rate for vans based on their environmental impact. If you choose a ‘greener’ van, you’d pay less tax in the first year.

Mr Jenrick said:
“We want to help ‘white van man’ go green. We appreciate that buying a new van is a major investment for small businessmen and women and want to help make environmentally friendly choices more affordable.”

Source: Vista Partners

Making sure your van
passes an MOT

If you own a van, there are some industry compliance guidelines you need to comply with. As a business, the last thing you want is your van to be declared unroadworthy.

But it’s something that happens, and leads to millions in lost revenue every year according to a Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) guide. Some common issues include:


proportion of vans found to be overloaded


proportion of vans found with serious mechanical defects


failure rate for Class 7 MOTs

If you’re stopped and it’s determined your van isn’t roadworthy, you could face:

But it’s something that happens, and leads to millions in lost revenue every year according to a Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) guide. Some common issues include:

A fixed penalty charge or on the spot fine up to £5,000

Prohibition of the van

Immobilisation of the vehicle

For the MOT scheme, all vans weighing less than 3.5 tonnes are categorised as either Class 4 or Class 7. Any van weighing more than 3.5 tonnes comes under the authority of a goods vehicle operator’s licence. That means you need to be extra vigilant of gross and axle weight limits for your van, remembering the total weight includes the driver, any passengers, load and fuel.

To help with vehicle compliance, SMMT provide this operator

Van checks

Walk around your van before using it to check, and record, any defects

Before using your van, fix any of these major defects

Van maintenance

Keep up with regular services, as recommended by manufacturer guidelines

Depending on how regularly your vans are used for demanding work, get safety critical components (e.g. brakes) checked between services

Keep vans insured, taxed and up-to-date with MOTs

Van records

Store all records for the above (defect, maintenance, rectification and servicing) for at least 15 months

Van condition

Keep your vans clean and tidy

Van suitability

Use the right vans with the right size, load capability and equipment for the job

Do not load vans beyond their maximum weights for their train, gross or axles

Maintain fitted specialist equipment such as tail lifts and tow bars

Manage risks and costs

Fit a 70mph limiter on vans used on the motorway – most vans use 25% more fuel at 80mph than at 70mph

Fit parking sensors to protect pedestrians, employees and your vans in crowded urban areas