Extra security does not need to be expensive

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There are several relatively cheap ways to deter a crook intent on driving off in your van or truck

While few people would decry the benefit of being able to track a van or truck that has been stolen, it does have an element of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. Far better to prevent the vehicle from being stolen in the first place. 

That poses a variety of challenges as thieves become more sophisticated. They are challenges that can be overcome, however, argues Paul Nunn, marketing manager at Maple Fleet Services.

To steal certain vans, all a crook needs is a lock pick that can easily be bought online for around £20. The thief then picks the driver’s door lock, gets the key code so a new key can be cut, returns to the van, unlocks the doors, connects a laptop to the on-board diagnostics (OBD) port and programmes the key’s chip.

Then all the robber needs to do is get behind the wheel, start the vehicle in the usual manner and drive it away.

There is a way of dealing with this sort of attack, says Maple, and that is to fit a RepLock. Supplied with its own key, it replaces the existing lock cylinder and resists being picked or drilled claims Nunn.

Another option is to protect the OBD with a lockable steel housing, he continues.

With some vans it can make sense to protect the engine control unit (ECU) with a lockable guard. If one is not fitted then a thief may be able to remove the existing ECU and install their own, thereby gaining control of the vehicle.

The van’s own factory-fitted immobiliser can be supplemented by a secondary immobilisation system which acts on two or three different circuits. Maple offers an Acer Green system which arms automatically and disarms when a special key fob gets within range of a hidden antenna.

It is available in 24v as well as 12v guise which means it can be fitted to a truck.

Maple offers Drivelock, too. This prevents a vehicle being driven off even if the keys are in the ignition and the engine is idling. Try to drive off without the transponder about your person that identifies you as authorised to do so and the van or truck will be immobilised the minute you release the handbrake.

Any attempt to restart the engine will simply result in the horn sounding and the lights flashing.

Extra load area door locks represent a wise precaution. Maple markets deadlocks under the Vanguard banner and can install a device called Activlock OE.

It converts the existing locks into slam locks by tapping into a van’s factory-fitted central locking system.

Variations on this theme include Activlock+, which operates separately from the OE central locking, and Activlock Secure, which incorporates shoot bolts.

Also worth considering is surrounding the factory-fitted locks with reinforcing plates from a supplier such as Armaplate. That should make it impossible to pierce the door’s skin and gain access to the lock’s rear.

“Sales of ancillary locks for commercial vehicles are on the rise again,” says Chris Batterbee, managing director of  Locks4Vans. 

“Major fleets went through a period when they stopped fitting them because van manufacturers said that the security built into vehicles on the production line was so good that they weren’t needed any more,” he says. “Some operators also felt the losses they were experiencing didn’t justify the extra cost.

“They soon discovered their fleets remained vulnerable however, no matter what the manufacturers said,” he adds.

If you neglect physical security, losses will eventually rise.

Locks4Vans offers a wide range of deadlocks and slam locks. It can supply a variation of the former which Batterbee describes as a hook lock because it has a bolt that swings across and hooks into a receiver fitted to the opposing section of the body.

“That makes it a lot more difficult to force open,” he says. “Plus, it’s no more expensive than a standard deadlock.” 

Deadlocks typically cost £80 to £110 a door, including fitting.

One option for vans is to fit what Batterbee describes as a statement lock; a big, heavy-duty lock that acts as a clearly-visible deterrent. Locks4Vans promotes the Ultimate lock which features a hardened steel locking bolt and is completely enclosed to prevent tampering.

“You can have it as either a slam lock or a deadlock and the fitted price is usually around from £150 to £180,” he says.

Confronted with that, a casual thief is likely to go off and break into someone else’s van; and leave yours well alone.

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