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Updated Jan 09, 2024

How to Prevent and Track Fleet Equipment Theft

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Max Freedman, Business Operations Insider and Senior Analyst

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According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), more than 1 million vehicles were stolen in 2022. As a fleet manager or business owner, your chances of becoming a statistic increase with each vehicle you add to your fleet. The good news is that stolen equipment trackers and GPS fleet management services help prevent theft and assist in reclaiming equipment. Keep reading for theft prevention and tracking tips, plus our picks for the best GPS fleet management services.

Types of vehicular thefts

Whether your fleet comprises everyday cars or construction equipment, such as backhoes, most instances of theft fit into several broad categories.

  • Theft for parts: If you’ve ever heard someone talk about selling their car for parts, you may understand why a thief might steal your equipment for parts too. Car parts can be immensely valuable and, compared to an intact vehicle, they are harder to trace to their owner. Additionally, skilled thieves can remove car parts without actually entering or moving your vehicle, further reducing their risk of being caught.
  • Theft targeting the contents of your vehicles: Your fleet itself isn’t the only thing of value. Some thieves are willing to bet your drivers have valuable items inside your vehicles, like cash, jewelry or personal goods. However, these thieves often are less trained than those looking for parts and, sometimes, don’t know how to steal without setting off your alarms.
  • Theft for fun: Believe it or not, some people are willing to risk getting arrested just to try out a novel vehicle, such as your branded vans. Since 2021, videos have circulated on TikTok showing how to steal Kia and Hyundai vehicles, leading to increased thefts. Although some thieves are considerate enough to return your vehicle to its original location after their joy ride, others may leave it somewhere far away. Carefree thieves could damage your vehicle during their illicit adventures.
  • Theft by setup: It’s not unheard of for a pair of thieves to rear-end a targeted driver, then have one person from each vehicle step out to address the situation. The third person can then run to your car and steal it before your driver returns.
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Thieves may steal your vehicles for parts, for fun or for what’s inside them. They may even carry out their theft via premeditated setups.

How to prevent fleet equipment theft

While the vehicle theft scenarios above are concerning, they’re easily preventable for the most part. Follow these best practices to keep your fleet secure:

  • Hold on to your keys: Instruct your drivers to never leave keys in the ignition or elsewhere in your vehicles. Keeping keys in pockets, as most people do, is an obvious solution, but pickpocketing is a risk in areas with high foot traffic and large crowds. Storing keys deep inside a backpack, briefcase or another work bag may be best.
  • Make spare keys: Provide your fleet drivers with spare keys and instruct them to keep these somewhere safe. This could be a secret location in your driver’s home or in a trusted friend’s possession. The spares should never be stored within your fleet or anywhere publicly accessible.
  • Remove or hide valuables: It’s common sense to not leave your smartphone or wallet in plain sight on your front seat, but you should remind your drivers to avoid this exposure nonetheless. If you need to keep valuables in your vehicle, you should only do so in the glove compartment. Thieves can likely see into other parts of the vehicle, making glove compartments the safest storage spot.
  • Take your registration with you: Most drivers leave their vehicle registration in the glove compartment, but you should instruct your fleet drivers to keep it on their person instead. This way, if a thief steals your vehicle and is pulled over, they can’t reasonably claim the vehicle is theirs — they won’t have the registration for it. 
  • Test your fleet’s alarms: Just as you regularly maintain your fleet for driving safety, you should frequently check that its alarms work too. This way, your vehicles will blare loudly and obnoxiously if thieves attempt to steal them. [See our guide to business security systems.]
  • Avoid spaces that feel theft-prone: Low-lit spaces or areas where people are loitering passively may be vehicle theft hotspots. No matter how convenient these locations seem for your fleet drivers, instruct your team to park elsewhere.
  • Use common sense: The basics of theft prevention that your drivers have known all their lives still apply. That means closing and locking doors and windows when the vehicle is not in use. It also means turning off the engine and taking the keys out of the ignition every time your drivers leave their vehicles.
  • Install stolen equipment trackers or GPS theft trackers: No matter how much work you put into keeping your fleet safe and secure, the possibility of theft (even if small) will always remain. You’ll be much better prepared to locate and recover your vehicles if each one is equipped with a stolen equipment tracker or GPS theft tracker. These devices are easy to install and use and they’re common across all kinds of fleets.
Preventing fleet equipment theft requires a combination of common sense, smart judgment calls, vehicle testing and GPS theft trackers.

How to track stolen equipment with GPS fleet management

If your equipment is stolen, GPS fleet management programs can help you locate and obtain it. Follow these steps to use GPS fleet management for this purpose.

1. Make sure every vehicle has a GPS device.

Once you sign up for a fleet management service and obtain your GPS theft trackers, make sure you’ve installed the tracking devices in each of your vehicles. Create a checklist to run through every time you obtain a new vehicle and include GPS device addition on this list. This way, your stolen equipment trackers will cover your entire fleet, not just part of it.

2. Conceal each vehicle’s GPS device.

Thieves are often smart enough to look for GPS theft trackers. Reduce the chances of thieves finding your devices by smartly concealing them. Many devices are designed for hiding but others may require more creativity on your part. Don’t forget you can conceal GPS devices on the outside of your vehicle too.

3. Confirm your GPS tracker’s real-time capabilities.

The best GPS theft trackers don’t just refresh every minute or so — they update your vehicles’ locations constantly on a map accessible via fleet management software. This capability comes in handy when you’re looking to catch thieves in the act. It’s nearly impossible for a thief to claim your vehicle is theirs if you can show they’re sitting in a car located exactly where yours is on your GPS tracker.

4. Set odd-hours alerts.

If your fleet drivers only work during certain times of the day, you’ll know something is off if your vehicles are on the road outside those times. Set odd-hours alerts to notify you if your vehicles are moving outside typical work hours. Such an alert is a near-certain indicator of theft and you should act on it right away.

5. Geofence your vehicles.

Some equipment shouldn’t leave certain worksites. You can create a geofence around this equipment to alert you if it’s been moved outside the allowed premises. In this case, you can reasonably assume a case of theft and take action as needed. [Related article: What is Geofencing and How Can It Benefit Businesses?]

6. Share your tracking software with your team.

As a fleet manager or business owner, you may feel tempted to handle all actions toward equipment recovery personally. However, if your fleet driver is far away from your main location when theft occurs, you can only do so much to help them. That’s why you should set up your GPS theft tracking software so your drivers can take action too. The sooner your drivers can act, the more quickly you can retrieve your equipment and get back to work.

The best GPS fleet tracking services

Finding the best GPS fleet management software for your team is simply a matter of patience and research. You’ll fare best when you consider the below tracking solutions as you choose a GPS fleet management system

  • Samsara: With Samsara, you can opt into industry-specific GPS fleet tracking packages and support more than 10,000 assets. Real-time reporting is also available, which is a surprisingly uncommon feature among GPS fleet tracking vendors. Read our Samsara review to learn more.
  • Azuga: This GPS fleet management platform leverages competitive benchmarking and financial incentives to encourage your drivers to perform better and drive safer. It couples this unique feature with straightforward geofencing tools and a live driver location map. Learn more via our Azuga review.
  • ClearPathGPS: With this vendor, you can choose from a menu of hardware and software options. This makes it easy to build a GPS fleet management system that fits your budget while still including ample tracking functions. Read our ClearPathGPS review for the details.
  • NexTraq: Unlike many other GPS fleet management systems, NexTraq works in Canada too. This can be hugely important if someone steals one of your vehicles and takes it across the United States border. Where other apps might fail to continue tracking it, NexTraq would still record the vehicle’s location. Our NexTraq review outlines key features.
  • GPS Trackit: This platform’s tracking features update every 30 to 60 seconds. As such, real-time updates on your vehicles’ location are easy to access and understand, giving you recourse amid instances of theft. Learn more via our comprehensive GPS Trackit review.
  • Force by Mojio: Plug-and-play GPS tracking features are part of this fleet management solution. This means you can begin tracking your fleet’s location the moment you start using Force by Mojio. Read our Force by Mojio review to find out about implementation and more.
  • Verizon Connect: One of the biggest names in telecommunications also offers a comprehensive GPS fleet management solution. This platform includes proprietary maps that may prove superior for location tracking compared to the Google Maps overlays common with other apps. Read our detailed Verizon Connect review for more information.

Keeping your fleet safe

The best GPS fleet management systems discourage would-be thieves from taking your vehicles for themselves. They also give you all the geolocation features you need to track down the rare thief that would dare to go up against your tracking software. With the right antitheft practices and technology in place, a more theft-proof fleet is possible.

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Max Freedman, Business Operations Insider and Senior Analyst
Max Freedman has spent nearly a decade providing entrepreneurs and business operators with actionable advice they can use to launch and grow their businesses. Max has direct experience helping run a small business, performs hands-on reviews and has real-world experience with the categories he covers, such as accounting software and digital payroll solutions, as well as leading small business lenders and employee retirement providers. Max has written hundreds of articles for Business News Daily on a range of valuable topics, including small business funding, time and attendance, marketing and human resources.
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