The growing threat of disruption from vehicle theft (and what to do about it).By Derek Bryan

To many people, a vehicle is something they use to get from A to B; for others, it is their place of work. From those who work in the HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) and plumbing industries to couriers and roadside assistance technicians, a variety of jobs across multiple industries use vehicles as extensions of a business’ overall footprint – helping to bring valuable services right to where customers need it.

For these businesses, losing a vehicle through theft not only means losing an asset, it’s the loss of a crucial part of their business. According to the ONS, vehicle theft is on the rise by five per cent year-on-year, so investing in systems and processes to help prevent vehicles from being targeted by thieves can be money well spent.

The cost of losing a vehicle can also spiral. In fact, recent research from Verizon Connect found that stolen vehicles and associated equipment cost small and medium-sized fleet-based businesses an average of £16,000 each year, with businesses reporting at least one vehicle stolen annually on average. The figures also grow in line with a business’ size, with large enterprises reporting an average of three vehicles stolen each year, representative of nearly £50,000 in assets alone.

Technology to take back control
The prevention of vehicle and asset theft has come a long way from noisy alarm systems. Using centralised fleet management platform and GPS units embedded in vehicles, fleet managers can get updates on vehicle location in near real-time to help improve their business. The data from these systems can also be used to aid relevant authorities, who may be able to use the data to help quickly and safely recover stolen vehicles and have them returned to businesses, assisting in closing the gap in service that a stolen vehicle can cause and maintain service level agreements (SLAs).

In addition, the same technology can also remotely disable a vehicle’s ignition once the vehicle’s engine has been shut off, limiting the distance a stolen vehicle can travel from the point of theft. This can have an impact on the rate of stolen vehicles which fleet-based businesses can recover.

However, Verizon Connect recently found that more than half (58 per cent) of fleet managers don’t currently use technology such as immobilisation devices to assist in recovering lost or stolen vehicles. As a result, less than half (44 per cent) of businesses who reported a vehicle stolen have been able to recover it, and any equipment, in usable condition.

The future of vehicle security
Fleet and business managers need to be extra vigilant and take the necessary steps to help reduce the impact vehicle theft can have on the bottom line. Readily available technologies such as vehicle tracking, centralised fleet management and remote immobilisation can help prevent the unauthorised use of vehicles, whilst also providing the added benefit of helping fleets drive down costs further through better monitoring of fuel usage, safety metrics and managing customer expectations.

While the technology available today already represents a huge leap forward in empowering businesses to safely run their mobile businesses, it will continue to improve. With advances in AI and dashcam technology, fleet managers will also soon be able to limit the potential impact of criminal damage to vehicles on the road. Easy access to evidence of driver accountability flagged automatically through AI-based analysis can also provide clarity surrounding any potential insurance claims which may arise as a result, further limiting the financial impact of vehicle-based incidents.

With vehicle theft, and the costs associated such as loss of equipment, on the rise, it’s more important than ever for fleet managers to have the right systems in place to keep track of their key assets. While an AI solution may not be a requirement for everyone today, an integrated, tech-driven approach to vehicle security and fleet management will not only improve security, it can help lower fuel costs, boost vehicle performance, improve driver safety and deliver greater value to customers.

Derek Bryan is VP EMEA, Verizon Connect. Verizon Connect is guiding a connected planet on the go by automating, optimising and revolutionising the way people, vehicles and things move through the world. Its full suite of industry-defining solutions and services put innovation, automation and connected data to work for customers and help them be safer, smarter, more efficient and more compliant.