Florists no longer dominate the delivery industry as everything from designer trousers to patio tables can now be ordered and delivered straight to the door. But this has led to a rise in the number of delivery fleets hitting UK roads, laden with desirable goods.
And when it comes to vehicle security, commercial vehicles do not fare as well as the car, making them a prime target for would-be-thieves.
Debbie Jones, a director at Protek-dor, which supplies security products for commercial vehicles, said: ‘The prevalence of light commercial vehicles (LCV) on the UK’s roads is partly due to the immense popularity of e-shopping and the subsequent need for home delivery.
‘Even before the onslaught of the home delivery boom, the Government carried out a survey into LCV theft and the results saw that approximately one in nine of all vehicles stolen in the UK was an LCV.’
The study found that 19 LCVs in every 1,000 were registered stolen – three times the rate of theft compared to heavy goods vehicles.
From the Government’s statistics, only one-third of the LCVs stolen were carrying loads at the time and more than three-quarters of these were carrying equipment rather than freight consignments. Jones says that while the onus has been on protecting the load, it is the vehicle and its cab that need better protection.
She said: ‘Protecting the goods in transit is the key concern for many employers but what about the driver and the van itself? So confident is today’s thief that if the load cannot be stolen immediately, the van can be taken and the load extracted afterwards.
‘An LCV with goods on board is less likely to be broken into by an opportunistic thief but more a targeted hijacking, where the goods loaded in the vehicle are known to the thief. The main products stolen in the Government’s survey were ladies fashionwear and electrical white goods.’
With an increasing number of attacks on LCV drivers in the UK and across Western and Eastern Europe, driving for a living is becoming increasingly dangerous, according to Jones.
She said: ‘From courier and sales person, to construction worker, each is developing skills more akin to security guard than commercial driver, with both load and vehicle increasingly attractive to thieves.
‘Yet fleet managers continue to fail to provide drivers with sufficient safety measures. Leaving them exposed to the danger of attack, inadequate driver security is costing businesses both time and money.’
For many commercial fleet drivers, their van is an extension of the office so it is a legal requirement for employers to address commercial vehicle driver safety in the workplace.
Employers must comply with the provisions of section two of the Health & Safety at Work Act, 1974, which requires that employers provide a safe and secure environment within which its employees can work.
How to keep loads and drivers safe on the road
THERE are a number of ways fleet managers can ensure a vehicle’s cargo is secure on the road.
A first step could be to read the Voluntary Code Of Practice for the Security of Dangerous Goods by Road.
This outlines measures for safe transportation. Developed by Government, police and industry, the code ‘establishes a framework to minimise the risk of theft or misuse of dangerous goods.’
However, Protek-door director Debbie Jones says: ‘Closer inspection of the Code of Practice shows that it is concerned almost exclusively with securing the vehicle’s contents, rather than the safety of the driver. In fact, the only reference to the driver is as a potential security risk.’
Several companies provide additional security measures such as locks and deterrent aids, which can be used alongside those supplied by van manufacturers.
These may be an option, according to Jones, as she believes that more professional thieves rather than opportunists usually target commercial vehicle fleets.
She said: ‘This means that manufacturer-fitted security needs to be of the highest possible specification to deter thefts.
The fact that a theft can have a significant effect on a business shows that many owners cannot afford to run insecure vehicles, even if the initial outlay may appear expensive.’
If a fleet does have vehicles broken into or stolen, employers must note the warning signs and ensure appropriate action is taken to protect their staff.
Jones added: ‘A duty of care is owed and they must take seriously the instruction to undertake ‘reasonable safety and security measures’ to ensure the welfare of their drivers.’