VAN drivers across the UK are being targeted by thieves on the hunt for tools, with research revealing more than a quarter have had equipment stolen from vehicles in the past 12 months.
A study by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles found some 57 per cent of drivers who own tools are at risk as they regularly leave gear in vans overnight.
A third are not protecting their expensive equipment with extra alarms, secondary locks, or vehicle trackers.
London is the hotspot for tool theft with 55 per cent of tradespeople having equipment stolen in the past year, followed by the West Midlands (33 per cent), North East (28 per cent), North West (25 per cent), and East Anglia at 23 per cent.
An average of 20,000 individual cases are reported to police forces across the UK each year, with the estimated cost of replacement tools and equipment standing at £15 million a year, says VW.
The cost of tool theft to businesses is more than just replacement equipment with tradespeople often unable to work while vans are re-stocked and locks repaired.
Downtime costs companies an estimated £550 a day per van.
The first step to protecting your vehicle is where you park it. Parking in a well-lit area or in a car park with CCTV will help reduce unwanted attention. Where this cannot be achieved or if you have more than one vehicle, parking them defensively - in other words, where doors are blocked by another vehicle or object - can be a good deterrent.
Van owners who wish to further increase the security of their vehicles there are various options available.
Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles offers a range of solutions to ensure your van remains protected.
As part of the Business Pack available across its range of Caddy, Transporter and Crafter, an anti-theft alarm system can be specified with interior monitoring, a back-up horn and tow-away protection.
VW also offers a variety of lockable racking solutions and storage boxes for expensive tools.
Another option is Volkswagen's We Connect, available as standard across the majority of the range. The system allows users to check important information on their smartphone while they are away from their vehicle, such as if doors are locked or lights are left on.
We Connect Plus offers additional security benefits, such as the online anti-theft warning system, which immediately sends a message to the linked mobile phone in the event of a burglary attempt.
David Hanna, head of sales operations at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, said: "Tool theft is a massive problem for tradespeople with thieves targeting vans parked up overnight across the country. It not only costs van drivers millions in buying new kit, but also impacts their ability to do their jobs, further impacting their finances.
"We're urging people who own expensive equipment to take extra precautions to deter would-be thieves, whether that's removing items overnight, adding extra security measures, or avoiding parking in unlit, secluded areas."