Top 6 tips to prevent theft from work vehicles

Imagine this scenario: The owner of a small landscape company stopped at a local service station to buy a root beer. When he came out, he noticed his leaf blower was missing. Panicked, he back-tracked to his last customer, thinking the blower might have bounced out of the truck bed. It was nowhere to be found.

He returned to the service station and dug the receipt for his soda out of his pocket, which had the time printed on it. The station attendant looked through the surveillance video during the time of his purchase and saw an RV pull up alongside the truck. When the RV left, the leaf blower was gone. The thieves were never caught.

Recovery of stolen equipment is complicated by poor tracking of serial numbers by owners. Recovered equipment often is sold at police auctions because it cannot be traced back to the proper owners. Follow these tips to help avoid theft in the first place, and to have a better chance of getting it back if something does get stolen.
  1. Make it less attractive. A unique color scheme, like painting all your equipment hot pink, can make it less appealing to would-be thieves. They know you could spot them on your daily customer routes. Honest competitors will refuse to buy them, and thieves will be discouraged by how much harder they are to sell with colors that scream “ownership.”
  2. Keep it out of reach. Low-wall trailers and pickup beds make for easy pickings. Don’t place high-valued equipment where it can be snatched by merely reaching over the side of a truck bed or trailer. Use high-wall trailers or sidewalls where equipment cannot easily be reached. Locked enclosed trailers or pickup toppers are your safest bet.
  3. Use a locking bar. A locking bar or pipe inserted though handles will secure equipment to the trailer. This is especially useful when making those quick runs to a convenience store for a restroom break, snacks, or fuel.
  4. Be street wise when at customer sites. Watch for cars that make multiple passes by your vehicles or trailers, or slow down when passing your trailer. If you feel wary, ask a second employee to watch the truck and trailer, or ask the customer to help.
  5. Work in pairs. Make sure one employee always has the truck and trailer within sight. Two employees working together are always more of a perceived threat than one isolated employee. It can be enough to discourage many would-be thieves.
  6. Photograph every piece of equipment. High resolution photos can document not just the model number, but the serial number, too. Keep duplicate records on your computer. If a theft occurs, you’ll have a record of exactly what was stolen.

Make sure your workers understand the principle of nonresistance if they encounter a thief, and that they have far less control of the outcome if they fight back. It is much easier to replace equipment than an employee.

By following these tips, you have a better chance of keeping your equipment safe and, more importantly, protecting your employees’ well-being.