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Van driving on a UK highway

Protecting your trade vehicle from tool theft

According to data from the Metropolitan Police, almost £57,000 of tools were stolen every day in 2020, £17.5m in total.1 While London is the hotspot for tool theft with 55% of tradespeople having equipment stolen in the past year, this is followed by the West Midlands (33%), North East (28%), North West (25%), and East Anglia (23%).2

An average of 20,000 individual cases are reported to police forces across the UK each year. Thieves are 10 times more likely to steal powered hand tools than non-powered hand tools, with 32,067 taken from 2019 to 2021, compared to 2,993 non-powered hand tools.1

But these figures are not the only cause for concern. The way tool thefts are carried out has evolved; this is where tradespeople are being caught out.

Tool theft is a 24-hour risk

It's not uncommon for tools to be stolen from vans during daylight hours while contractors work on-site or even while parked outside wholesalers.

The fact is thieves are opportunists. They will take whatever is easily accessible whenever they see the chance: from boxes of tools to electronic devices and power tools. A van break-in puts the average tradesperson out of work for 30 days and costs them £5,982 in missed jobs, on top of the cost of replacing tools and materials.3

How can you reduce the risk of tool theft?

As a contractor or the owner of a contracting firm, you'll likely have security measures in place to protect your tools and equipment overnight. However, it's worth investing in some additional security measures to protect your work tools and vehicles throughout the day:

  • Deadlocks – even while you're working on site.
  • Van safes – secure vaults that can be fixed to your van.
  • Secure your windows – with grills or panels.

As well as using additional security products, remove your tools from your van each night. Although some insurance policies can cover tool insurance in vans overnight, it's better to eliminate the risk in the first place and avoid having to make a claim.

Protecting your van from theft

More than 43,000 vans were stolen in the UK between 2016 and 2020.4 With the rise of skeleton keys and other technologies designed to override security systems, van theft is pretty easy. Here are some tips to keep your van safe:

  • Park your van near CCTV coverage – and close to your house or site. If possible, position your load or side van door adjacent to a wall to restrict access.
  • Use tracking (GPS) services – to track your fleet; they provide an extra line of defence against theft. While professional thieves will know where to find a GPS device and remove it before driving off, many opportunist thieves will not.
  • Install an anti-theft product – an OBD port protector, immobiliser or tracker. Steering locks make it a lot more difficult to steal a vehicle. Invest in disk locks for all your trade vehicles, and remember to routinely fit them during the day as well as after hours.
  • Van lock protection plates – steel plates that encase the existing locks on your van, preventing thieves from trying to drill or prise them out.

Personal tool insurance

You wouldn't think of taking on a job without the right tools; they're essential to your work. Equally, it's essential you have the right insurance to protect your tools against theft.

Here are few things you should think about when arranging your tools insurance:

  • Tool extension - many off the shelf policies don't provide overnight cover for your tools. It's worth checking any exclusions on your policy.
  • Keep an inventory - do you know how much your kit is worth? Keep an inventory of all your equipment, including evidence of ownership (receipts), calibration certificates, and serial numbers so that the cost can be accurately calculated in the event of theft or loss. For older tools, keep photographs on file.
  • Van insurance - your commercial vehicle insurance will be separate from your contractors insurance policy. Whilst contractors insurance may be able to cover the cost of your tools and equipment, it will not cover damage to or loss of your commercial vehicles. In this case, you'll need separate van insurance to cover vehicle theft, either through an individual or fleet policy if required.

What if you’re the victim of tools theft?

If any of your tools are stolen from your van, follow these steps:

  1. Report the theft to the police.

  2. Provide your insurer with your up-to-date inventory to get an estimate for replacement.

  3. If you have serial numbers of any of your stolen equipment, it's advisable to set up alerts on Gumtree, eBay and Tool Exchange. These sites have stringent checking processes to prevent registered stolen tools from being sold on these sites.

Your insurance can help protect against the cost of replacing your tools in cases of theft. However, having robust security measures and procedures in place is the best way to protect your essential business equipment.

If you would like any advice on the different policies and what they mean for you, speak to our contractors insurance experts.


1 https://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/tool-theft-remains-a-daily-headache
2 https://businessvans.co.uk/van-news/the-cost-of-overnight-tool-theft/
3 https://www.commercialfleet.org/news/van-news/2020/11/18/more-than-a-third-of-businesses-hit-by-van-theft-logistics-uk-finds
4 https://www.whatcar.com/news/what-car-research-finds-four-in-10-vans-dont-come-with-an-alarm-as-standard/n20868

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