If you leave your tools in your van overnight, you're exposing them to the risk posed by a growing threat faced by contractors and tradesmen. According to a study by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, van drivers are being targeted by thieves searching for expensive tools. Research reveals over a quarter (27%) have had equipment stolen from vans in the past 12 months.
The study found over half of the van drivers (57%) who own tools are at risk, as they regularly leave equipment in vans overnight. Yet a third (31%) are not protecting their expensive equipment with extra alarms, secondary locks, or vehicle trackers.1
During times of uncertainty, you may find yourself questioning the value of insurance, particularly if you're managing reduced income or have been forced to stop work temporarily. However, if you lost your tools, vehicle, or stock, would you recover without insurance to help with the cost? An incident now could mean you have to stop work or delay jobs if you don't have protection to help you get up and running again. As well as having the right contractors insurance in place, here are some suggestions to protect your tools from theft.
Invest in tool security
As well as taking necessary precautions to protect your tools after hours – for example, removing them from your van overnight – it's worth investing in security measures to protect your tools and vehicles throughout the day:
Deadlocks – while you're working on site.
Van safes – secure vaults fixed to your van.
Secure your windows – with grills or panels.
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.
Tool theft isn't 9-5
Thieves are experts at spotting opportunities; they'll take whatever is easily accessible whenever they see the chance. 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.
Tools are not only stolen from vans after dark. Opportunist thieves strike during daylight hours – while contractors are on-site or parked outside wholesalers.
Protect your van
The increased use of skeleton keys and other technologies that can override security systems has made van theft somewhat easy. More than 43,000 vans were stolen in the UK between 2016 and 2020. Here are some tips to keep your van safe:
Park your van close to CCTV coverage – and as near to your house or site as possible. Position your load or side van door adjacent to a wall to restrict access if you can.
Use tracking (GPS) services – to track your vehicle; they provide an extra line of defence against theft. Professional thieves will know where to find a GPS device and remove it, but 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 use them during the day as well as after hours.
Van lock protection plates – steel plates that encase the existing locks on your van are good theft deterrents.
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 necessary you have the right insurance to protect your tools against theft.
Here are a few things to consider when arranging your tools insurance:
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
It's important to keep track of all your equipment, including evidence of ownership (receipts), calibration certificates, and serial numbers. This means in the event of theft or loss the cost can be accurately calculated. If you have older tools, keep photographs of them on file.
As a contractor, your business van or commercial vehicle is vital to your livelihood. However, your commercial vehicle insurance may be separate from your contractors policy. Whilst contractors insurance may be able to cover the cost of your tools and equipment, it may not cover 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.
NICEIC Insurance's commercial vehicle insurance policies can include comprehensive cover, 'no claims' discount protection, and single commercial vehicle cover. All vans in the UK used for business need a commercial van insurance policy.
Your contractor 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 from risk.