Photo courtesy of NHTSA.

Photo courtesy of NHTSA.

Because fleet vehicles are well marked and often filled with valuable tools and/or products, they are particularly attractive to thieves.

While fleet vehicles may be more susceptible to theft and break-ins, there are a number of techniques that drivers can practice to make commercial vehicles more secure and less of a target.

Vehicle thefts and break-ins, whether committed by professional thieves or those looking for some quick cash, are typically crimes of opportunity, according to Carol Kaplan, director of Public Affairs at the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).

“The professional thieves will go on the hunt looking for cars and will find the ones that are compromised and pick on those,” she said. “However, if you’re parked on a city street and have left a laptop on the passenger seat, you might have somebody who’s really hard up who will smash the window and grab it. The professional thieves are out there searching, checking doors in parking lots. It’s a crime of opportunity because they’re looking for that one car that has left an opportunity for them.”

The following are some tips to help drivers avoid being victims of vehicle theft or break-ins, according to the NICB and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):

  • Don’t leave a vehicle running, even if you’ll just be inside a business for a “minute.”
  • Make sure vehicles are locked both when in motion and when they’re parked and unattended. 
  • Don’t leave keys or fobs in vehicles.
  • Park in well-lit locations.
  • Stow valuables (e.g., laptops, phones, or purses) out of sight before leaving home, company headquarters, or a previous stop.

There is one surprising risk for fleet vehicles that Kaplan has observed lately.

“I’ve noticed that, instead of having their names or logos painted or wrapped on the vehicle, some companies use magnetic signs. I think those are really easy for thieves to remove and make it harder to identify the company’s vehicle if it’s stolen,” she said.

Durable markings such as wraps, while making a fleet vehicle an initial target, could be a valuable aid in identifying a stolen vehicle.

Including VIN numbers on vehicle components and company markings and identifying numbers on easily removed property, such as laptops, are a way to help aid in recovery in the event of a break in and theft, Kaplan said.

Technology, such as telematics and other tracking equipment, can aid in the recovery of a stolen vehicle. Car alarms, while not quite as popular today, are another way to help deter thieves, according to Kaplan.

“Anything that will scare off a thief is good,” she said.

The bottom line for fleets and their drivers is to use common sense when securing their vehicles.

Of all the anti-theft recommendations, Kaplan said the most crucial is also, not surprisingly, the most fundamental. “Lock your doors,” she said.

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