Van Thieves Using Sophisticated Technology to Target Fords
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.
Which roads are Britain's most dangerous?
UK roads can be a nightmare – as a tradesperson whose business relies on their van, we're sure you know what we mean.
Many businesses are built around vans, and all van drivers will no doubt understand the importance of safe driving. But tradespeople are also very busy and will often be rushing around to get to their next job, meaning they'll always be on the lookout for the fastest route.
However, some roads pose more of a danger than others and even the safest of van drivers often think twice before using them.
A new study from the European Road Assessment Programme (EuroRAP) evaluated motorways and A roads outside of urban areas to find out which ones posed the highest overall risk to drivers.
The most dangerous road was found to be the A537 between Macclesfield and Buxton in the Peak District (named the Cat and Fiddle after the inn located at its summit). Popular with motorcyclists, the road is known for its many bends, which increase the likelihood of users being involved in serious and fatal accidents.
The list was decided based on the level of road safety improvement (or lack thereof) between 2010-2012 and 2013-2015. The roads were ranked on the frequency of accidents, their severity, and the cost of the accidents. The roads that the EuroRAP categorised as "persistently higher risk" were the ones that were very busy and where the rates of serious crashes were "little improved or worsening".
Similar routes that were judged to be dangerous were the A254 between Ramsgate and Margate, the A259 from Glyne Gap to Ore, and the A588 from Lancaster to the A585 junction outside Poulton-le-Fylde.
Previously, it was thought that the North and the Midlands had the most dangerous roads, but this new research has suggested that, despite the most dangerous road still being located in the North West, the South East of England is now the riskiest place in England to drive, featuring six of the ten most dangerous carriageways. South Glamorgan was considered the most dangerous county to travel in, with the highest cost of crashes totalling at £105 million in 2010-2012 and £115 million in 2013-2015.
It's not all bad news, however, The report also shone a light on the roads that showed the most improvement within the same time period. These included the A4151 in Gloucestershire from Nailbridge to the junction with the A48 as well as the M25, which had an impressive 73 per cent improvement from 2010-12 to 2013-15.
There are other roads that van drivers would rather steer clear of, as highlighted by a similar survey by Leasevan.co.uk, which found that most drivers wished to avoid the Snake Pass road in the Derbyshire area of the Peak District, which is known as an accident blackspot. The A285 from Chichester to Petworth was another unpopular route (and has been previously named Britain's most dangerous road by the Road Safety Foundation).
A spokesperson from Leasevan said, "Tradesmen don't have a lot of time to spare when they're on the road, but it seems there are some routes they really do dislike having to travel. Sometimes it makes sense to avoid a road if there’s an alternative route that has less traffic or fewer hazards. At the same time, speed is a common factor in road accidents, so driving carefully and not too fast mitigates a lot of the dangers".
Road accidents are a big problem in the UK, costing the country £36 billion each year – that accounts for 1.2 per cent of the UK's GDP. This means that road accidents cost the economy more than GP services and primary schools combined! It's such a big problem that the UK government has allocated £175 million to the Safer Roads Fund to carry out road safety engineering treatments on the most dangerous roads.
Accidents can be particularly problematic for van drivers because their livelihood is often dependent on their vehicle. Collisions can have severe consequences for them and their business, causing massive disruption.
Of course, whether the statistics say you're on the most dangerous road in the country or the safest, good driving will help ensure you won't be involved in an accident.
And in case you are ever involved in an accident, being equipped with quality any driver van insurance from iVan should help ensure that the disruption to your business will be minimal.
Safe winter driving tips for all van drivers
Winter is on its way, and it's important for van drivers to be prepared for all of the hazards that the cold weather may throw at them.
Of course, safe driving is a must all year round, but in the autumn and winter months there are a few unique risks that drivers will need to be extra cautious of so they do not end up in an accident and find themselves having to make a claim.
Below are a few things to be mindful of when driving in winter.
Tyres – First of all, you must make sure your tyres are in good condition and inflated to the correct pressure. You also need to make sure they have enough tread depth. Worn down tyres with hardly any tread are always dangerous, which is why you should always make regular checks throughout the year. However, in the winter, where the surface of the road is far likelier to be icy, the risk is amplified. It is illegal to have tyres with a tread depth less than 1.6mm, but in the colder conditions, a minimum of 3mm of tread is strongly recommended.
Brakes – Icy roads mean less friction, which is why it's crucial for your brakes to be in top working order. If you're at all concerned, you can bring your vehicle into the garage to have your brake pads tested.
Visibility – This may go without saying, but you must make sure you can see clearly throughout your windows and windscreen. With the lack of daylight in winter and potential for fog, Mother Nature has already made it trickier to see without having misted up windows, so make sure your demister is functioning and wipe down your windows. As for your windscreen, make sure your wipers are working properly and that your washer fluid is topped up. An ice scraper is also essential for all those frosty mornings.
It's also likely for your headlights to get smeared with mud and dirt. As you'll be relying heavily on your headlights, you should take the time to wipe them down every day before you set off.
As you're running a business, it's understandable that time is precious and you are in a rush to get going, but you must leave yourself some extra time to before setting off so you can do all the necessary demisting and cleaning.
Fuel – Keeping your tank full will help give you more traction by adding weight to your van. What's more, not having a full tank increases your van's chances of suffering a frozen fuel line, leaving you with a vehicle that won't start and a disrupted business.
Speaking of van's freezing over, does your vehicle have enough antifreeze? Antifreeze will help stop winter doing damage to your engine, but you need to make sure you put the right amount in. Your vehicle's manual should tell you the best type to use and how much of it you should be using.
As a tradesman relying on your van, you are no doubt used to making numerous vehicle safety checks, so taking the time to make certain of all of the above should be no problem at all.
And the last thing you need check you're equipped with? Yes, you guessed it: reliable van insurance.
Whatever the season, accidents can happen at any time, even to the best of drivers. No driver wants to be involved in an accident, but when your business relies on your vehicle, the consequences of an accident can be even greater. That's why, to give yourself peace of mind, picking out the right van insurance is essential. Offering cheap van insurance for young drivers as well as tailored insurance for all types of van drivers, Ivan can find the right quote for you.
Forget White Van Man, its Rainbow Van Everyone
2017 has been a year of change in the way we perceive gender and gender relations and this has been no different in the area of commercial vehicles.
For a long time, there was a very set image of what constituted a van driver; "white van man" was just that, a balding, slightly overweight, St George-flag waving, pie-eating, Sun-reading white man.
However, as many a fleet van insurance manager may have told you, even ten years ago, things are changing (although it's doubtful things ever really did adhere to the stereotype).
Whether drivers are private policyholders or they drive under the protection of larger fleet van insurance policies, the truth is that they are from all walks of life. They can be black or white, male or female, vegan or sworn carnivores, tabloid-reading or broadsheet-reading; in fact, the broadsheet is now the newspaper of choice for most van drivers.
So it should come as no surprise that Auto Trader recently carried out a piece of research and found that women account for 32 percent of van owners. Often they are working as tradespeople, sometimes they are simply driving vans for the sake of personal practicality and other times they are driving vans because they serve their hobbies well – for example, windsurfing or dog-walking. In some cases, they may actually own one van for personal use but drive another under the protection of fleet van insurance as part of their job.
All in, according to Auto Trader around 1.4 million British households own a van, with around 40 percent of these used for both work and personal use. Furthermore, 37 percent of these vans are in the hands of "middle-class" owners, meaning that there is every bit as much chance of vehicle cabs being covered with quinoa grains as pork pie pastry crumbs.
"Our study shows a revival for the van community which celebrates van drivers of all backgrounds, genders and ages," commented Auto Trader editorial director Erin Baker.
"The van has many benefits beyond couriering work equipment, and now with modern interiors, better technology and connectivity and an overall driving experience that's becoming more comfortable, car buyers are increasingly turning to the van when it comes to considering a vehicle that meets their occupational and lifestyle needs in equal measure."
And, it is not just fleet van insurance policyholders and leisure users who are behind what Auto Trader reports as an increase of 4.4 percent in van purchases between July and September 2017; the UK housing crisis is also a factor. An unspecified number of people are turning to vans as a means of accommodation, both temporary and permanent, with many vans being specially adapted into mobile homes.
2017 has been the year of vans being all things for all people.
The worrying rattle of skeleton keys
Any driver van insurance holders should beware of a haunting new development in the world of van and tools theft: the remarkably effective skeleton key that is so easy to obtain that it can be bought by even the least sophisticated internet-literate thief. And in even more haunting news, the key retails for just £20.
Reports of the skeleton key's availability may help explain why there has reportedly been a surge in van and tool thefts across the United Kingdom in recent months, with one broker releasing data that reveals tool thefts to be up 30 per cent in England, Scotland and Wales.
News of the skeleton keys' involvement in thefts reached the public through two West Yorkshire builders who set up a social media page devoted to the topic. They were then interviewed by the BBC and told the news organisation that police had informed them that there had been a whole series of thefts believed to be attributable to the skeleton keys.
However, one of the builders said that police failed to properly investigate the theft of tools from his van. "They gave me a crime number and that was it really - forgotten about," said the man. "They said ‘it's a builder's van, there'll be no fingerprints, get yourself to work.'"
The skeleton keys are a standard tool for locksmiths; however, many within the profession have called for their sale to be better regulated.
"These are legitimate locksmiths tools," commented Steffan George from the Master Locksmith Association. "But they shouldn't be available to everyone. We would welcome a restriction of their sale."
It is also thought that skeleton keys could be leading to heftier insurance cost per theft. One broker said that it had recently witnessed a 40 per cent growth in the average value of any driver van insurance claims made for van break-ins.
Until more regulation is brought in to restrict the sale of the skeleton keys, any driver van insurance holders will just have to remain vigilant by ensuring that they lock their vans, park them conspicuously, and remove their tools from their vans whenever possible and that they always do so overnight.