Theft of tools and materials from builders is all too common in the UK with over 92% of those who work in the industry enduring it at some point during their working life, according to The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB).
CIOB data reveals that a quarter of all builders say theft is very common and that they experience or hear about it every week. When it comes to vans, one insurer recently said that the level of tool theft from builders’ vehicles had increased by a third since 2014, while the value of items taken increased by 40%.
And the ease with which criminals can get into vans was brought into focus recently when builder Alan Hills revealed on YouTube how thieves had used just a screwdriver and a mole grip to compromise the locks on this van and gain entry.
He recorded the video, which has been watched by over 50,000 times so far, after tool theft from his van cost him £650.
But faced with such an onslaught of sophisticated and knowledgeable criminals, is there anything builders can do to prevent them from being another crime statistic? Here’s our guide.
A lot of builders concentrate only on ensuring the locks on their vans are thief proof, but if they can’t force your locks then many thieves will simply smash back windows and get in that way – so grills for rear windows are a must.
Even new vans are fitted with very vulnerable door locks so retro-fit either deadlocks, which are almost impossible to pick, or instead fit protection plates for your locks, which prevent people getting at the locks in the first place. You can find our full range of locks here.
One technique used by thieves to get into vans with sliding side doors is to force the tops of the door panels with their fingers and open them up like a sardine can – called peel and steal. But special alarms can be bought that will detect attempts to do this, or a more basic remedy is to fit a neck bolt inside the van at the top of the door.
If you can’t stop them getting in, then at least prevent them taking your tools away. Two options are to either weld locking points to the inside of your van and padlock toolboxes and power tools to them, or fit a lockable van vault or strong box fitted, which cost approximately £150.
Before you go full lock-down with your van, you might want to check whether it will be affected by changes to government policy on diesel and petrol vehicles.
Even if they do make off with your equipment, it’s worth marking your equipment to increase the chances of getting it back.
The Chartered Institute of Building said in its report into industry crime that recovery rates for stolen tools have been improving, partly because more builders registering their plant with the Construction Equipment Security and Registration scheme (CESAR).
Its website contains the full range of technologies available to help mark and track down stolen equipment including unique plant identification plates, DNA-style datatag liquids, ‘datadots’ and other systems.
If this isn’t for you, then simply etching your name into the equipment with a knife or file is a good idea too, as is painting your equipment with bright paint – making it difficult for criminals to sell your tools online.
If you carry very expensive equipment in your van then we recommend fitting a Thatcham Cat 1 alarm and immobiliser to your vehicle, which cost around £300 to £400 and, the most advances of which feature tilt sensors, glass break sensors, microwave proximity sensors to detect people hanging around your van, key cloning prevention tech and shock sensors.
TradePoint Insurance includes 24 hour tools cover in their Public Liability Insurance so if the worst does happen and they get into your van and half inch your tools, then at least ensure your equipment is covered against theft.
Getting the right insurance is just one of the considerations when you’re self-employed. Did you know that around a quarter of builders work for themselves? Find out more in our guide to going self-employed.