Protecting your trade vehicle from tool theft

A worrying 30% rise in tool theft has seen the total cost of theft claims rise to over £2.8 million in the trade industry, with the average value per claim standing at around £1,626.[1]

Tools are stolen from a commercial vehicle once every 23 minutes in the UK.[2]

UK tool theft has peaked over the last year, with reported thefts rising from 14,063 in 2015 to 22,749 in 2017.[1] However, not only have the number of thefts increased, but the way they are carried out has also evolved. And this is where tradesmen are being caught out.

A new age of tools theft

It used to be that the majority of thefts and break-ins occurred overnight, when a tradesman left his van parked up outside a house, hotel or place of work. But this is no longer the case.

More common now, is tools stolen from vans during daylight hours, while contractors are working on-site or even parked up outside wholesalers.

During the day, contractors are more likely to be lax about security. Trusting of on-site security, being close to their vehicles and constantly back and forth to their vans for tools and equipment, theft is often the last thing they’re thinking about.

The bottom line is that thieves will take whatever is easily accessible. From boxes of tools, to electronic devices and power tools. Thieves will take whatever they can in the time they have.

Reducing the risk of tool theft

As a contractor or owner of a contracting firm, you most likely have security measures in place to protect your tools and equipment overnight. However, in the current climate, it might be worth investing in some additional security measures to protect company tools and vehicles during the day as well:

  • Deadlocks
    Additional locks aren’t just for overnight. Set deadlocks even while working on site.
  • Van safes
    Van safes are secure vaults that can be fixed to your van. Though these might be a pain to get tools in and out of during working hours, losing them would be even more inconvenient.
  • No tools in the van overnight
    Thieves aren’t stupid. They’ll probably have been keeping tabs before attempting a theft. Although there are policies that can cover tool insurance in vans overnight, it's better not to have to make a claim at all. Make it policy to never leave tools or equipment in vehicles overnight. Even if this doesn’t deter a break-in in the first instance, it will certainly reduce the costs of loss.

What about van theft?

Figures reveal there has been a staggering 100% rise in the theft of vans taken without the owner’s keys.[3]

Van theft has also seen a significant increase in recent years. Thanks to the rise of skeleton keys and other technologies designed to override security systems, van theft is scarily easy. Last year, 82% of light commercial vehicles were stolen without the owner’s keys.[3]

Van security measures you can take

Ford Transits, for example are stolen not for the contents of the van, but rather for the engine and gearbox. While the rest of car can be scrapped, the engine and gearbox are difficult to trace when being sold on. So, while some of the securities protecting tools will be useless, there are still a couple of measures you can take:

  • Steering locks Fitting a steering lock makes it a lot more difficult to steal a vehicle. Invest in disk-locks for all your trade vehicles and remember to enforce a policy of fitting them during the day as well as at night.
  • Van lock protection plates These are steel plates that encase the existing locks on your van, preventing thieves from trying to drill or prise them out. This is another relatively inexpensive but effective form of deterrent.

Personal tool insurance in van

Is tool insurance worth it? Yes! - In an industry where the tools you work with really are essential to the job, it is equally essential that you have the right insurance to protect against theft.

Here are few things you should think about when getting insurance:

Tool extension

Many off the shelf policies don’t provide overnight cover for your tools, so it’s worth checking what the exclusions are on your policy.

Keep an inventory

Many tradesmen are not aware how much their kit is worth. It is important to keep an inventory of all your equipment, including evidence of ownership (receipts), calibration certificates and serial numbers so that the cost of your loss can be accurately calculated. For older tools, keep photographs on file.

Van insurance

Your commercial vehicle insurance will often be separate from your contractors’ insurance policy. Whilst contractors' insurance may be able to cover the cost of your tools and equipment, it may not cover your commercial vehicles. You are likely to need separate van insurance to cover vehicle theft, whether through an individual or fleet policy if required.

"What to do if my work drills get stolen"

If you are the victim of tools theft, you may ask how you should handle it. In the event of a claim of any of your tools being stolen from your van these should be your first steps:

Report to the police.

  1. Provide your insurer with your up-to-date inventory to get an estimate for replacement.
  2. If you have serial numbers for any of your equipment, you can set up a Gumtree/eBay alert to be notified if any of your stolen items are being sold on these sites.

Remember, whilst your insurance policy can help reimburse you in the cases of theft, having robust security measures and policies in place is the best way to protect your business equipment.


[1] phpionline.co.uk/severe-van-tool-theft

[2] bbc.co.uk/van-tool-thefts-skeleton-key

[3] driving.co.uk/rise-theft-vans-smart-keys