Tips for Preventing Fleet Vehicle Theft

Ray Kosick


May 9, 2023

Vehicle Theft

In 2020, more than 804,000 motor vehicles were reported stolen—an 11.8% increase from 2019—costing vehicle owners more than $7 billion. This means a vehicle was stolen every 39 seconds, with a recovery rate of 56%.

Vehicle thieves do not discriminate and will take advantage of any opportunity to drive off in your vehicle, whether it be a car or a work truck or van that belongs to a commercial fleet. Some industry experts estimate that the majority of fleets deal with at least two thefts each year. While some do recover, many do not—one lost vehicle can cost a company more than $50,000 in damages, and even more in lost productivity.

Replacing stolen fleet vehicles can be difficult. Typically, fleet vehicles have valuable work equipment in the cargo area. Modern fleet vehicles are also equipped with radios, cell phones, laptops and more. A truck full of equipment makes it even more attractive to a thief and adds a laundry list of expenses for vehicle owners to account for. Often, the individual drivers are responsible for the vehicle and any personal items left inside—and if the cause of theft is classified as employee negligence, it can result in termination.

Vehicles often end up in chop shops, allowing a thief to sell car parts that cannot be linked to the stolen truck. For example, catalytic converters have a hot commodity lately, considering the current strains on the supply of precious metals. A thief might also resell the vehicle with a fake VIN. Unless the vehicle is recovered, the outcome is always less than ideal.

Preventing Vehicle Theft

It is nearly impossible to predict how a thief thinks, so we must do what we can to mitigate the risk of vehicle theft. Having a layered approach to protection can help your vehicle seem less of an easy target.

Layer 1: Think Practically. You would be surprised how often people forget these basic theft protections, but it is important to always lock your doors, remove your keys from the ignition, close your windows completely, and always park in well-lit areas.

Layer 2: Visible or Audible Devices. Some of these devices include audible alarms, steering column collars, steering wheel/brake pedal locks, brake locks, wheel locks, theft deterrent decals, identification markers in or on vehicles, window etching, and micro-dot markings. Having one of these devices may help scare off potential thieves or prevent them from causing damage.

Layer 3: Vehicle Immobilizers. Smart keys, fuse cut-offs, kill switches, starter/ignition/fuel disablers, wireless or ignition authentication can literally help stop thieves in their tracks.

Layer 4: GPS Tracking. Unfortunately, there are some situations where a thief can take off with a vehicle or valuable equipment regardless of preventive measures. In these instances, fleet owners can implement GPS tracking technology to expedite response and recovery of stolen assets. GPS tracking technology monitors fleet vehicle activity by using mapping, cellular and satellite technology to provide an exact, real-time vehicle location so that employees, managers and police have the necessary information to quickly recover stolen fleet vehicles and equipment.

By implementing safeguarding practices and GPS tracking telematics fleet managers are more likely to not only recover a stolen vehicle, but because the process can be executed quickly, the business is less likely to face significant disruption.

Ray Kosick is product manager at GPS Insight.