National Vehicle Theft Prevention Month Shines Spotlight on Major Issue:
What Steps You Can Take
It is officially summer. July means high temperatures, fireworks, cookouts, baseball…and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s annual National Vehicle Theft Prevention Month! It’s time to educate vehicle owners on identifying theft risks, minimizing vulnerabilities, and how to protect their valuable assets.
Vehicle theft is a significant issue across the nation. Overall, NHTSA reports that 804K vehicles were stolen in the U.S. in 2020, one every 39 seconds, costing vehicle owners over $7 billion. While passenger cars made up more than 74% of all stolen motor vehicles, commercial and public fleets are prime – and pricey – targets for thieves.
By some industry estimates, a majority of businesses deal with two or more stolen vehicles per year. Thankfully, most businesses do recover their stolen vehicles, many do not. One lost vehicle can cost a company $50,000 or more and, to compound that loss, companies then lose several thousands of dollars in driver downtime for each stolen vehicle. Protecting these assets is an absolute necessity for fleet operations.
For commercial fleets, it’s not just the thefts of vehicles, but thefts from vehicles that are another major challenge. Thieves want vehicle parts and valuable items, too. Some of the most targeted vehicle parts include wheels, engines, transmissions, airbags, and catalytic converters. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, catalytic converter theft has skyrocketed in recent years, rising from 1,300 instances in 2018, to over 14,400 incidents in 2020, a 1,000% increase. Catalytic converters can cost businesses as much as $3,000 to replace.
Additionally, modern fleet vehicles are rolling technology centers so thieves also target radios, GPS units, cell phones, iPads, laptops, and more. And then there is the valuable cargo fleets contain as well.
In most businesses, drivers are financially responsible for the vehicle and any personal items left inside and can be terminated if a vehicle is stolen due to employee negligence, such as leaving keys in the ignition.
For fleet managers and drivers, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Utilizing the right technology can protect vehicles, protect drivers and protect the bottom line.
Technology to Protect Fleet Vehicles
Thieves have gotten much more sophisticated. Relying on barbed wire, alarms, and padlocks to protect fleet vehicles would be like fleet managers relying on a chalkboard, telegraph, and abacus to handle key office tasks. To truly safeguard your fleets and prevent taking a loss on any type of vehicle or asset, managers must equip their assets with innovative technology, not outdated tools.
GPS tracking is the backbone of fleet telematics and a core tool in collecting additional critical data needed to manage a growing fleet, such as vehicle routing and mapping data, vehicle idling, speeding and use analytics, traffic violation, accident information, and more. But it is a key element of defense against theft.
GPS tracking devices can help businesses quickly recover lost or stolen vehicles or equipment and provide valuable information to help you work with employees and police to quickly track down a stolen vehicle. That’s serious peace of mind for anyone entrusted with an expensive company asset.
Managers can set GPS tracking alerts to monitor exceptions during both working and non-working hours. To keep an eye on your fleet even after the workday ends, set odd hours alerts to let management and drivers know if vehicles or assets are moving when they shouldn’t be.
For assets and trucks that should always stay on location, you can set a landmark alert to be notified if any equipment leaves the landmark/geo-fence set for your site. If one of your work trucks or other assets is stolen, real-time mapping provides the current location of your vehicle on a map and the exact location of your stolen property to authorities. This insight will increase the chances of recovering property much sooner.
Although fleets are prone to experience theft, having GPS tracking technology will increase the chances of recovering stolen property and help prevent your business from taking a loss.
Case Study: GPS Insight Tech Recovers Stolen Vehicle
Tacoma Public Utilities wanted a reliable way to recover stolen or lost vehicles, and they found that exact solution with GPS tracking from GPS Insight.
Publicly owned since 1893, Tacoma Public Utilities (TPU) provides safe, clean drinking water and electricity to more than 200,000 customers in Washington, as well as owns and operates a railroad. TPU manages approximately 1400 pieces of equipment, including heavy construction equipment, specially outfitted trucks, and boats. Currently, TPU uses GPS Insight tracking devices on 500 vehicles.
After one of their F-250 Ford pickups disappeared from their property, the company used GPS tracking to immediately discover the truck was parked at a local apartment complex.
“We started to do a little more investigating and pulling in some more information,” Don Ashmore, six-year fleet manager at TPU said.
“With GPS Insight, we were able to gather a world of data that would narrow it down to one suspect. Our part is to hand over the information and let the police do their job. We got our vehicle back without any major damage, which was really what we wanted.”
More Tips to Protect Your Fleet
Despite Hollywood depictions like Ocean’s 11, criminals tend to look for simple targets, not complicated heists involving blackouts and acrobats. For fleets, unlocked vehicles or those with keys in the ignition are a beacon to thieves. These vehicles, and those without obvious anti-theft technology, require minimal effort to steal.
Sadly, while the risk of stolen vehicles usually comes from external individuals, businesses should also remember that thefts are often an inside job. They should consider these tips to reduce the likelihood of vehicles being stolen due to negligence or by an employee:
Employee background checks
To prevent vehicle theft at the hands of a dishonest employee, detailed background checks on all staff members should be performed before permitting them to get behind the wheel.
Provide employees with routine training on proper theft-prevention efforts, including parking in well-lit areas, keeping all windows closed and doors locked when leaving vehicles unattended and never, ever leaving the keys in the ignition after parking.
Equip vehicles with anti-theft technology
In addition to GPS tracking, there are other anti-theft devices to help protect vehicles, including alarm systems, steering-wheel locks and technology that immobilizes vehicles when a thief tries to manipulate the ignition systems or hot-wire a vehicle.
For more information about how GPS tracking can safeguard your fleet and enhance operations, click here to learn more.