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Any van driver with a keyless ignition system should beware – there has been a 100 per cent rise in the incidence of commercial vehicles being stolen without the owner’s keys.

The figures support anecdotal reports by any driver van insurance policyholders regarding the security of their vehicles, with vans frequently targeted for both the value of the vehicles themselves as well as their contents.

Tracker, a company which specialises in commercial vehicle security solutions, reports that 82 per cent of van thefts in 2017 occurred without the owner’s keys being used; the same type of theft accounted for only 44 per cent of such incidents recorded by Tracker in the previous year.

According to the firm, both criminal gangs and lone wolf operators are targeting commercial vehicles that have keyless ignition systems, apparently using technology that deceives vehicles into unlocking even without the use of the official key.

These so-called relay thefts can happen to any van driver, and although insurance policies are likely to cover losses caused by the crime, having a vehicle stolen in this way can cause inconvenience, emotional distress and rises in the cost of any driver van insurance come renewal time.

“Keyless entry technology has now been widely adopted in the LCV market, and this is evident in the fact that last year there was a two-fold increase in LCVs being stolen without the owner’s keys,” commented Tracker’s head of police liaison.

“The relatively new trend in vehicle theft termed ‘relay attack’, that allows criminals to harness more sophisticated theft techniques to overcome existing vehicle security technology, such as immobilisers and keyless entry systems, has played a significant part in this increase,” he added.

Last year footage recorded by West Midlands Police attracted the attention of van drivers. It showed a Mercedes van being stolen from outside a private residence. The ‘relay theft’ took less than a minute to complete.

Any van driver who is concerned about the possibility of having their keyless ignition system hacked by thieves should consider additional steps to secure their vehicle. For example, steering wheel and gear stick locks are both relatively inexpensive and serve as good deterrents to thieves.

 

Houses on beach cliffCarmarthenshire Council recently announced the arrival of its new fleet of mobile library vans, complete with fleet van insurance, by proudly making the claim, "Our mobile libraries cater for everyone."

It's a fine sentiment and an enviable boast; however, it turns out that it may not be true. Why? Well, because, according to union Unison, Carmarthenshire has "put the car before the horse" by failing to consider that some people simply can't fit into the vans, including members of the council's own library staff. It sounds like a tall story (please excuse the pun) but it is all too true for stooping library staff.

So, as it stands (the last pun, we promise), the council has purchased fleet van insurance to cater for employees who, although not unusually tall, are tall enough to be unable to fit into the library vans without uncomfortably stooping.

Have you ever thought that you are receiving surprisingly perhaps even astoundingly low cost van insurance? Unfortunately, just like many other things that appear too good to be true, ridiculously low cost van insurance can sometimes be deceptive.

This was the case recently for a 28-year-old Scottish man who took his partner's Nissan van out to run some errands only to be stopped by police and informed that he was driving without insurance.

However, the man was stunned, adamant that he was a named driver on his partner's policy and was therefore driving perfectly within the law. Police double-checked the insurance details of the vehicle and informed the man that unfortunately he was mistaken: only one driver was legally entitled to be driving the van, and that driver was not him.

As such, the man had to appear before a court where, despite claiming that his partner had told the insurance company to include him on the policy, he received a £500 fine and five penalty points on his driving license, which brought the total number on his licence to 11.

It seems that the man might have been telling the truth when he claimed that he thought he was not doing anything illegal; it turns out that he was a named driver on one of his partner's low cost van insurance policies, only it was a different van altogether – a Ford Transit Van.

"There was some uncertainty as to whether he had been added to that policy," said a police spokesperson. "It's fair to say the insurance company has a different version of the conversation they had to [the driver's] version."

"He would say there was a misunderstanding. His partner owns a Ford Transit van, which is insured for him. He has stated it was not deliberate flouting, if he wished to drive he would have driven the van. He would say it was a misunderstanding as to whether he had been added to the policy."

The Takeaway


However true the driver's story in the case described above, the incident should be a reminder to all of us not to make certain assumptions without first checking all the relevant documentation.

Sure, low cost van insurance policies are not everyone's favoured reading material, but it does only take a few minutes to verify that you have been included on a policy. Doing so can save you a fine, penalty points and a bill for prosecution costs.

 

When you consider that more than 90 per cent of road accidents are caused by driver error, it becomes easier to understand why finding cheap multi-driver van insurance can sometimes seem so difficult, usually requiring a trawl of multiple internet van insurance comparison sites using the search terms "multi-driver van insurance".

However, things are changing, both in the commercial vehicle insurance landscape and in the wider world of vans, with autonomous vehicles looking like an increasingly inevitable feature of the future. This is not to say they are just around the corner; there are still insurance liability and technological issues to be worked through, but there is now little doubt that within the next decade fleet managers will at least have the option of autonomous commercial vehicles.

But that isn't necessarily a good thing. Sure, fleet managers and business owners might be freed from their multi-driver van insurance obligations, but will the autonomous alternative actually be any cheaper and will driverless vehicles fulfil the remit required? This, of course, remains to be seen.

Perhaps fleet managers will no longer even have their own vans. Perhaps the whole ownership model will be different. Perhaps large companies will have huge fleets of autonomous commercial vehicles for hire, and when business owners need them they will simply call them in a similar way to how Joe Public does today when he wants to order a taxi or Uber. Connectivity options may also allow business owners to pool their needs so that they can share services with other owners. Much in the same way we speculate that costs could go up, they could also go down and it is almost impossible to predict how this future will pan out.

Cyber security is another unknown and as such is a potential area of concern. If vehicles can be hacked the scope for sabotage, accidents and other misfortunes is vast, particularly if systems are, as is likely to be the case, interconnected. In some extreme projections, it is possible to imagine business rivals effectively engaging in cyber warfare in order to bring down the competition.

Of course, before we even reach this stage it is necessary to first negotiate the myriad of safety, regulatory and insurance issues regarding autonomous vehicles. There are certainly interesting times ahead.

 

Every and any van driver with van insurance cover should be aware that van thieves are becoming increasingly sophisticated in the way they target and steal vans.

This revelation comes as a result of a BBC investigation detailing the theft of 14 Ford Transit vans in Lincolnshire by gangs who are using cutting edge equipment to breach the security systems of vans in order to obtain parts and tools.

Experts say that the thieves are using imitations of the sophisticated hacking systems utilised by locksmiths so that they can easily unlock vans, start engines and make an escape.

Lincolnshire Police report that they have liaised with van manufacturer Ford and have subsequently posted details to their website outlining what van drivers can do to help prevent thefts.

"You can get new alarms fitted linked to your phone, or CCTV," said a police spokesperson. "It's about vigilance and improving your own security whenever possible. It's a difficult one. The public has to be vigilant. If they own a Transit van, it's what they can do to help themselves. If anyone is acting suspicious around you."

However, Lincolnshire Police conceded that the spate of high-tech van thefts was "worrying" and indicated that although "in an ideal world, we want to catch these people", they were currently unable to stop the thefts from happening.

Furthermore, local locksmiths admitted that the technologies they use professionally have been misappropriated by the thieves and that there was little they could do to try and counter the thefts.

One man told the BBC that he has been left angry and unable to sleep following the theft of £3,000 worth of tools from his van in October of last year. He also said that he had had difficulty in getting his any driver van insurance provider to pay out for the theft and had to use his credit card in order to buy replacements for the stolen tools.

Ford has said that it is "constantly learning more about theft techniques" and was taking the situation very seriously.