Tool Insurance for Tradesmen

Is the policy purchased providing value for money?

Trades people, will know that one of their most valuable assets is their tools. Loss of tools may mean they are unable to work and will be spending time and money replacing them.

It has been reported that a van is broken into every 23 minutes in the UK. With tool theft shooting up by over 30% in the last year and police figures suggesting it has rocketed by nearly two thirds in two years. In 2014/15 there was a worrying 14,063 reported tool thefts, which increased to 22,749 in the year 2016/17.

With these figures in mind, many van owners and authorities are raising their concerns that we are witnessing a van tool theft epidemic. It also appears it is not just the number of van thefts on the rise, but also the value of van theft claims, with a 40% increase in the average value of tool theft claims witnessed between 2012 and 2016.

The average tool theft claim value now stands at around £1,626, as thieves steal more valuable equipment.

But, how are thieves breaking into the vans?

There are two methods in particular that campaigners are blaming the increase in tool theft on – the ‘peel and steal’ method, and the use of skeleton keys.

The ‘peel and steal’ method is where criminals use their bodyweight to ‘peel’ the van open, lifting the top of the side door open, to reveal any tools located in the van. A method that resembles opening a tin of sardines – and many tradesmen have now become aware of. The method has become so popular that campaigners estimate a total of five tool thefts everyday are committed using the ‘peel and steal’ method.

The skeleton key is generally a legal tool used to aid locksmiths. However, they have now become readily and easily available online to the general public, and at a cost of just £20. According to Steffan George from the Master Locksmith Association, “these are legitimate locksmith’s tools…but they shouldn’t be available to everyone.”

A huge issue is that many tradesmen and wome, do not read their insurance policy documents in detail and therefore, are often not aware of what cover they have. They generally assume their policy will respond in the same way as their vehicle insurance.

It’s very important to check policy documents before buying any insurance. Specifically looking at the exclusions and excesses, as these conditions include the details – in this instance, such as the construction of the building the tools are kept in, vehicle alarm specifications, the need for the vehicle to be kept in a locked compound overnight. And, any stipulations that tools may only be insured overnight if the right security is in place or higher excesses for this element of cover.

It’s also vital that the value of tools are not underestimated. They need to be insured for the correct amount, as insuring them for a lower value may mean receiving less than it costs to replace the tools in the event of a claim.

What can be done to protect tools from theft?

Security should be high up on the priority list when buying a company vehicle – does it have tinted windows to reduce visibility, an alarm, immobiliser or deadlocks on all doors. These details could save money in the long-term if they protect the van and tools from theft and damage

Remember, security is only worthwhile if it is used. Many thieves are opportunistic, so whenever a van is left unattended it should always be locked, including closing all windows and doors.

Valuables should not be left in a van at any time, and tools should not be left on show whilst the van is unattended. Consider storing tools safely indoors overnight and leaving the van empty. Use of “no tools stored overnight” stickers can act as a further deterrent

Keep a record of what is in the van. If VAT registered there is already a need to keep receipts of new tools, but receipts for more expensive ones should be retained too. In the event of a claim, there is evidence of that particular item.

When parking, ensure the van is parked within a busy area that is likely to have a lot of people around – or in a location that is known to be covered by CCTV. This can deter potential thieves from targeting the van, and in the event the van is broken into, there are likely to be witnesses, or CCTV footage.

Other security options could include:

  • additional security measures such as using a UV security pen to write the post code or company name onto tools and other valuable items
  • purchasing  MicroCESAR which uses the same technologies larger construction companies use for their own equipment security. The cost can be as low as circa £10, if bought as a bundle, and it offers theft deterrence and an increased likelihood of recovery of the tools.

Alternatively, if there is a sense of being unable to fully comply with the security requirements of an insurance policy, self-insurance could be a viable option. Putting the amount being paid to an insurer into a separate account to offset any costs if any equipment is stolen.