tradesman insurance

Tradesmen targeted by criminals in tool theft ‘epidemic’

Tool theft is on the rise in the UK and tradespeople need to take every precaution

In the UK, every 23 minutes a van is broken into and tools are stolen from it, costing tradespeople £100m a year in total. Let that sink in for a moment.

Every tradesman and tradeswoman hopes and probably thinks it won’t ever happen to them, but if and when it does, frankly there’s no worse inconvenience at work. Expensive tools and equipment that you rely on to do your job and earn your living – gone. Sometimes even a whole van full.

It happens not just to tradespeople daft enough to leave their van open either. Locked or not, these days it seems thieves will find a way to help themselves to your tools one way or another.

Tool theft is a worrying trend on the rise

Skeleton keys are one of the new devices used for tool thefts, apparently. They are bought online for £20 by criminals who then open a van as if it’s their own. No need to break and enter. In 2017, it reached the point where the number of tool thefts carried out this way was described by The BBC as an ‘epidemic’.

When tradespeople then report the crime, it doesn’t sound like it’s something the police see as a priority. One tradesman who had hundreds of pounds worth of tools stolen last year was reportedly told by the police, ‘it’s a builder’s van, there’ll be no fingerprints, I’d get yourself to work.’

Statistics tell us these crimes climbed more than 30% in the last year and by almost two thirds in the last two. It’s reached a point where most builders in the UK have now been a victim of tool theft.

Thieves are getting smarter too. Your typical van break-in isn’t a smash and grab anymore. Reports say there has been a 40% rise in the average claim since 2015, which suggests criminals target more expensive tools, rather than looting anything they happen to find.

What can tradespeople do about tool theft?

So if tool thefts are increasing and the police are too overworked to respond to them properly, what can a tradesman do? Well, there are a few practical prevention methods that will lessen the likelihood of your tools being stolen:

  • Park in safe locations and, when possible, near CCTV
  • Have additional van locks or alarms installed
  • Mark tools and keep a note of all serial numbers. This makes it harder for thieves to sell on
  • Lock all tools away in toolboxes inside your van
  • Remove tools at the end of the day and store in a safe lock up
  • Place stickers on your van to tell thieves ‘no tools are stored in this van overnight’

What if your tools are still stolen?

Sadly, even by taking these steps, a few of which are just common sense, you might still have your tools taken. If the statistics are anything to go by, thieves have become increasingly determined.

The next most sensible thing to do is get insured, because losing out financially isn’t an option. It goes without saying that self-employed tradespeople must be able to replace their tools immediately, otherwise they can’t work and can’t earn.

In this climate, tool insurance cover – or tools in transit insurance as it’s sometimes called – has never been more valuable. Policies can start from under £100 a year and will often cover you for up to £5k worth of tools.

With all insurance, you should pay close attention to the policy small print – but perhaps even more so with tools insurance. Some policies won’t pay out if the tools are left in your van overnight and stolen – and many tradesmen don’t have the luxury of a lock up.

Rhino Trade’s tool insurance policy does allow for overnight storage though, as long as your van is kept in a locked garage or compound, or the vehicle is alarmed or on the policy holder’s driveway.

This type of insurance tends to cover you for more than just theft too. That goes for accidents when loading equipment into or unloading it from your van, along with any damage to tools in transit.

The moral of the story is, tool theft can easily happen to you – and it’s best to work on this basis. Take the basic security steps and protect yourself with tradesmen insurance.

Oh, and watch out on Mondays. Claims records show it’s the day most thefts occur…

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