The risk of farm vehicle thefts tends to increase dramatically in winter, with longer, darker evenings making it easier for thieves to operate in quieter rural areas.
According to statistics from Aviva, 76% of general vehicle thefts occur during the darker hours of the winter months. Their study states that the proportion of vehicles that were stolen in the dark (as opposed to simply items taken from vehicles) has dropped, suggesting that thieves are becoming more daring.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss how to protect your agricultural vehicles, including machinery, quad bikes and flatbed trucks, from theft.
The increase in farm vehicle theft
The cost of rural vehicle crime actually dropped by 9.3% in 2021. However, now is not the time to be complacent, as initial indications from the NFU Mutual Rural Crime Report 2022 suggest that, in the first quarter of 2022, costs resulting from thefts were 40% higher than they were in the same period the previous year.
Theft is exacerbating the current cost of living crisis as it’s now more expensive to replace stolen property, and the rising costs of fuel and essential farming equipment suggests that thefts are expected to increase in the months ahead.
In fact, according to the report, thefts of agricultural pickup trucks have more than doubled as the value of second-hand vehicles continues to rise.
The figures show that older vehicles with less-sophisticated security are the most likely to be targeted by thieves, with older Mitsubishi L200s and Toyota Hiluxes among the most commonly stolen farm vehicles.
And it’s not just trucks that are at risk. NFU Mutual also reported that quad bikes are also popular with thieves, with Cumbria seeing the highest number of thefts in the country.
How to protect your farm vehicles against theft
Agricultural vehicle thefts are often well-planned, with criminals staking out isolated rural areas and operating late in the night or in the early hours of the morning. They usually transport the vehicles in containers, with many being taken out of Britain and sold abroad.
While it’s not possible to completely eliminate the risk of theft, there are a number of steps farm vehicle owners can take to prevent it or aid in tracing and recovery. These include:
Storing the keys away from the vehicle
Sophisticated thieves are able to carry out keyless vehicle theft, using a signal-amplifying device to gain access to cars, 4x4s and other road vehicles. To reduce the risk of this happening, farm owners should store their keys in an area that’s away from the vehicle and out of easy reach for thieves.
Another effective method of deterring thieves is to use a signal blocking pouch to store the keys for your road vehicles in. There are also options such as steering wheel and foot pedal locks, which work as a visible way to encourage thieves to think twice.
If farm vehicles and machinery are stored in external barns or buildings, farm owners should ensure that these are as secure as possible. This means investing in strong locks and alarms and making sure that any smaller vehicles or tools are in security cages to prevent any potential break-ins.
Closing and locking yard gates at night
Investing in farmyard security is also important. Farm owners should close and lock gates at night to ensure that their vehicles are as secure as possible.
Always check security lighting, CCTV, and floodlighting on the farm property to help ensure it is up to date and functioning effectively, and that farm vehicles are visible. Not only will this provide extra security and act as a deterrent, but camera footage with good lighting will be helpful to the authorities if you notice trespassers or any suspicious activity.
Considering mechanical devices
Most tractors and quad bikes are left unlocked for easy access for multiple drivers. However, when it comes to pick up trucks and 4x4s, mechanical devices such as steering wheel locks, wheel clamps, and locks can also be great deterrents. All are signals to thieves that, even if a farm vehicle can be opened without the keys, it will be immobile.
Using covert trackers
Having a covert tracking device installed is a simple way to improve your chances of getting your vehicle back if the worst happens. Many devices have instant theft alerts and good recovery rates, giving you peace of mind that any farm vehicle can be located quickly in the event that it does get stolen.
Joining a local farm watch or rural watch
Search online for local farm or rural watch groups in your area. Joining these groups will enable farm owners to receive important security updates and more tips on farm vehicle protection, as well as helping raise awareness of farm vehicle theft within rural communities.
How to choose a sophisticated tracking device
As thieves are becoming savvier and savvier in their methods of farm vehicle theft, it’s important to choose a tracking device that is entirely covert and undetectable.
Unfortunately, standard or in-built tracking devices are easily spotted and disconnected by thieves, as their whereabouts are the same each time. Choosing a more sophisticated covert tracking system means the device should be fitted by a specialist, with the location kept in total secrecy so that tracing and recovery is still possible in the event of vehicle theft on your farm.
It is also important to look for devices with good accreditation and recovery rates. For example, Thatcham Research has been a leader in vehicle security for more than 30 years and products with its seal of approval have undergone rigorous testing procedures. Another accreditation to look out for is Secured By Design, the official police security initiative that helps to improve vehicle security.
When reviewing suppliers, it’s important to enquire about recovery rates and what happens after a theft. A good provider should have a responsive team of experts on hand, so that when a vehicle is stolen, they can immediately start the recovery process.
Find out more AX Track and how we support our customers with vehicle recovery
We’ve been helping recover stolen vehicles for over a decade. The team has over 60 years' Policing experience combined with almost 20 years tackling vehicle theft in the private sector.
You can find out more about who we are, our industry-leading recovery statistics and how we operate by downloading the resource below.