Steering Clear of Theft: How to Protect Your Fleet Vehicles from Being Targeted

A motor vehicle is stolen every 32 seconds in the United States, according to NHTSA. - Photo: Automotive Fleet

A motor vehicle is stolen every 32 seconds in the United States, according to NHTSA.

Fleet vehicles are not immune to theft, and you can find yourself at a loss if your drivers aren’t careful.

July is National Vehicle Theft Prevention Month. To help protect your vehicle, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is teaming up with the National Insurance Crime Bureau to provide information about vehicle security.

Vehicle Theft Facts and Figures

First, let’s take a look at the sobering statistics.

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, in 2023, more than one million vehicles were reported stolen. Overall vehicle thefts increased about 1% nationwide year-over-year from 1,008,756 in 2022 to 1,020,729.

Historically, passenger cars made up approximately 74% of all stolen motor vehicles. A motor vehicle is stolen every 32 seconds in the United States, according to NHTSA.

According to the FBI, motor vehicle theft is the third most common property crime in the USA.

Break-Ins Can Happen Anywhere

What’s inside your fleet vehicle can be of great interest to criminals. It’s not just expensive electronics that attract thieves; even a few dollars in your cupholder or cell phones and laptops left on a seat can be enticing.

While you might think high-crime areas are the main concern, that’s not always the case. Criminals often walk up and down rows of parked fleet vehicles, looking through windows for anything of value in plain sight. Unfortunately, they often find something.

You can reduce your risk of a vehicle break-in by following some simple but effective tips:

  • Keep valuables out of sight. If your vehicle has a trunk, use it. If you drive an SUV or van without a trunk, stow smaller items under the seats and cover larger items if possible.
  • Keep your cup-holder empty. Drivers often leave their cell phones or loose cash there, but that just gives a thief a reason to target your vehicle.
  • Hide your Toll Transponders. While parked, put your electronic toll payment unit in the glove box. Just remember to take it out when you return to the vehicle.
  • Always lock your doors. It sounds basic, but many drivers get into the unsafe habit of not locking their doors when parked in familiar surroundings. Yet, motorists have had items stolen from their vehicles parked in their own driveways. Never leave your parked vehicle unlocked, even briefly or someplace seemingly safe.
  • Park safely. An attended lot or garage is best. If that’s not an option, park closer to buildings and in a well-lit area.
  • Remove luggage on arrival. On overnight stays, it’s best to check in to your hotel and move the luggage out of your vehicle as soon as possible. If your room isn’t ready yet, ask the front desk to store your bags in the meantime.
  • Notice your surroundings. Be mindful of your environment and report any suspicious activity.

How to Keep Your Company Vehicle Safe

Reduce the risks for fleet drivers and the companies they drive for by following these best practices to make vehicles less likely to be targeted:

  • Know the danger zones. Anywhere you stop or slow down is a prime opportunity for carjacking. Intersections with a light or stop sign, parking garages, parking lots, gas stations, ATMs, driveways, and highway exit and entrance ramps. Stay vigilant in these areas.
  • Lock your doors. Never leave your vehicle unlocked, even briefly and even in your own driveway or other familiar place.
  • Close your windows. From a personal safety perspective, it’s better to keep windows closed and use the air conditioning or open the vents.
  • Stay focused. Be cautious when approaching or exiting your vehicle. Instead of looking at your phone, scan your surroundings. Have your keys in hand so you’re not searching for them.
  • Have an escape both in parking lots and on roadways. An escape option is as important for personal safety as it is for avoiding a crash. Leave room between your vehicle and the one in front of it, so you can move out of harm’s way. Avoid situations where a vehicle is directly next to you on both sides.
  • Be on guard. Don’t assume that fender bender was unintentional. Remain in your vehicle with the windows rolled up, activate your hazard lights, and drive to a safe location to pull over. Once you’ve stopped, stay inside the vehicle and contact the police. This also applies if you suspect someone impersonating a police officer is trying to pull you over. An unmarked car or the absence of a uniform can be warning signs. While slowing down with your hazard lights on, call 911 to verify the legitimacy of the stop. Only open the window slightly to pass your license and registration through.
  • Park with care. Well-lit garages and lots, especially those with an attendant, are usually the safest options. Avoid parking in isolated areas or near large objects where someone could hide.
  • Never resist. Your safety is more valuable than any personal possession. If someone approaches you with force, do not resist or argue. It’s often best to surrender your keys and leave the scene. If you’re in the vehicle, try to exit from the passenger side to put more distance between you and the thief and facilitate a quicker escape. Each situation is unique, so always trust your instincts.

By implementing these precautions, fleet drivers and their companies can enhance their safety and reduce the risk of vehicle-related crimes.

Ensure Compliance with Documentation

Before setting out on any route, fleet drivers must verify that the vehicle’s registration and insurance documents are valid and present in the vehicle. This not only ensures compliance with legal requirements but also prepares drivers for any unforeseen inspections or incidents. Here are a few steps to follow:

  1. Check the glove compartment: Make it a habit to check the glove compartment or designated document holder for the vehicle’s registration and insurance papers before starting the vehicle.
  2. Verify validity: Ensure the documents are up to date and not expired. This includes checking the dates on the registration and insurance cards.
  3. Report missing documents: If any documents are missing or expired, report this immediately to your fleet manager or supervisor to obtain the necessary replacements.

Taking these simple steps can help fleet drivers avoid potential fines, delays, and complications during their trips, ensuring a smooth and compliant operation for both themselves and the companies they drive for.

What to Do if Your Vehicle is Stolen

If a fleet vehicle is stolen, it is crucial to take immediate action and contact the police immediately. Officers will file a stolen-vehicle report, and drivers need to remember to request a copy for the company’s records. This report will be necessary for insurance purposes.

Next, notify the insurance company as soon as possible, ideally within the first 24 hours, to ensure timely processing of the claim. Prompt reporting helps both in the recovery process and in minimizing potential losses for the company.

NHTSA says you should provide the following information to the police:

  • License plate number
  • Make, model, and color of your vehicle
  • Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and any identifying characteristics

During the annual Vehicle Theft Prevention Month campaign held every July, NHTSA highlights the potential for motor vehicle theft, preventative measures that not only businesses should take, but consumers as well, the importance of addressing the vehicle theft problem, and its significant economic impact.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top