Vehicle crime has always been an unsavoury reality of operating hugely valuable vehicles that can carry even more valuable cargoes from small vans right through to 44 tonne artics.
While official figures are hard to come by, the data that is available in the UK, coupled with anecdotal evidence of fleets, dealers and manufacturers nationwide is that the battle is being won. Increasingly secure vehicles and trailers now have the broadest ever scope of additional security systems, cameras, alarms and tracking technologies, but more can still be dome by industry, government and operators.
The British nationwide truck crime intelligence body, TruckPol was closed after the withdrawal of government funding in 2012, but was recently reinstated as the new and more broadly-based NBCS (National Business Crime Solution). Complimenting efforts by manufacturers to continually enhance vehicle security, the NBCS will gather, analyse and disseminate data on commercial vehicle crime.
Looking at some high-profile examples, the importance of top-notch vehicle protection and operator awareness is brought into clear focus. In the USA, pharmaceuticals giant Eli Lilly, may have set an unofficial record when it suffered a theft of $75 million of product – stolen in one single truckload. At the more ordinary level of general haulage within England and Wales, there are estimated to be around 40,000 truck crimes annually, and over £500 million worth of trucks and goods being stolen.
Affected operators will tell you that the most common crimes are fuel theft and the slashing of trailer curtains. However, there is also suspected to be an additional unreported volume where goods are not stolen, but damage is caused. Organised criminals respond to demand, travelling the length and breadth of the country to steal goods and vehicles. Their methods range from curtain slash thefts from trailers parked overnight, to aggressive robbery and truck hijackings.
Take steps to reduce risk
But there are steps that can be taken to reduce the risks. Deterrent is the key, and visible security in the form of a flashing LED sensor, or steel reinforcing and encapsulation cables, are proving their worth.
Security firm Trucksure’s tank guard and cat guard systems are designed to work with existing measures like locking fuel caps or anti-syphon devices. They need no action from the driver, being automatically armed shortly after the ignition has been switched off. Trucksure, and others, also offer an optional text message system to alert a traffic office that a theft is in progress.
Catalytic converters on vans are more easily protected with devices like CatLoc and CatClamp. A cable cage design surrounds the converter with an aircraft-grade wire rope that is very difficult to cut. TruckMinder takes a different approach, and uses ultrasonics to protect a raft of expensive components. An alarm is triggered if someone tries to use a saw, cutters or a grinder. Fuel tanks, catalytic converters, DPFs and ECUs can all be protected with the device.
Sometimes it’s the theft of innocuous components that cause the most inconvenience. Batteries are designed to be accessible for service and maintenance, but they are popular with thieves too. With the re-packaging of chassis for Euro-6, many truck manufacturers have moved the batteries to the rear of the tractor, putting them in a harder to reach area behind the chassis rails. But wherever it may be, systems like TruckMinder can shield them too.
There are things that fleet managers can do to protect valuable cargo without spending too much money. TNB knows of one light haulier that runs a 12-tonner from Germany on a weekly turnaround whose reinforced box body is covered in a fruit and vegetable company’s livery, that he sold the space to as advertising. He got a few odd looks and attention from HMRC at first, but he’s running under the robber’s radar.
The message for operators is that there are plenty of things they can do to prevent component and whole truck or van theft, and if they protect their whole fleet, the costs can be reduced and spread.