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Strategies and measures to protect your fleet vehicles


Are you worried about rental vehicles in your fleet not being returned on time only to be discovered stolen? Do your fleet drivers share keys and sometimes leave them in the vehicle? Do your vehicles need to deliver goods in unsafe locations?

While no two fleets are the same, risk is always expensive. That cost can be particularly steep when it comes to your fleet vehicles. Fleet vehicles tend to attract theft because they are newer vehicles and typically carry valuable products or tools.  Because they are such valuable assets, they need protection from risk, which ultimately protects your business.

No vehicle is entirely immune to theft, including fleet vehicles. Many vehicle and equipment thefts are crimes of opportunity, and the easiest way to prevent them is to reduce or remove the opportunity.

The question has to be asked: How do you protect your fleet vehicles?

Simple tactics such as locking doors, hiding valuable equipment, and installing anti-theft devices, and installing a telematics solution, i.e. Global Positioning System (GPS) trackers go a long way to securing your fleet against vehicle and equipment theft.

There are certain steps fleet operators can take to both make themselves less of a target, and to protect themselves when they are targeted. In this article we will explore all the ways in which you can protect your assets.

The statistics

The issue of truck hijackings and theft in South Africa has seen a significant rise over the past few years, posing a major concern for fleet operators. Here is a detailed overview of the relevant data, focusing on delivery vehicles, trucks, and tippers.

Commonly-targeted trucks

Truck hijackings have increased substantially over recent years. The types of trucks most frequently targeted include:

  1. Mercedes-Benz Actros
  2. Scania G-Series
  3. Volvo FH
  4. Isuzu F-Series
  5. MAN TGS

These models are favoured by criminals due to their high value and the demand for their parts in the illegal market.

Statistical overview

  • Annual data: In the fiscal year 2023, there were 1,996 reported truck hijackings in South Africa, reflecting a significant increase from previous years (TAPA EMEA).
  • Quarterly trends: The last quarter of 2022 alone saw 492 incidents of truck hijackings, indicating a 9.8% year-over-year rise (Shipping and Freight Resource).

Geographic hotspots

  • Gauteng Province: This province remains the epicentre of truck hijackings, accounting for over 60% of all incidents. The number of truck hijackings in Gauteng rose from 775 in the previous year to 1,042, marking a 34.4% increase (TAPA EMEA).
  • Mpumalanga Province: Another hotspot, with an 89% increase in hijackings, totalling 201 incidents (TAPA EMEA).
  • KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape Provinces: Both provinces also report high numbers of truck hijackings, contributing to the overall increase in cargo-related crimes.

Notable Incidents

  • Durban Port: There have been several notable incidents where trucks transporting high-value goods to and from Durban Port were hijacked.
  • Johannesburg industrial areas: Trucks operating in these areas, particularly during early morning and late-night hours, have been frequently targeted.

The rise in truck hijackings and theft in South Africa necessitates stringent security measures for fleet operators. By leveraging advanced telematics solutions and maintaining robust security protocols, the risks associated with truck hijackings can be significantly reduced.

Basic security principles

There are several essential security precautions that fleet owners should take to minimise the risk of vehicle theft. Implementing these basic security principles requires a combination of technology and behavioural changes.

Implementing a layered approach

Common sense will work much of the time, but to further deter thieves a “layered approach” to vehicle protection is recommended.

  • Common sense: Don’t leave keys in the vehicle, lock doors and windows, and park in well-lit areas.

To protect your fleet vehicles the next step following common sense (the first layer) is visible deterrents on the vehicles. These are any devices or items that indicate to a thief the vehicle theft will be more difficult.

  • Warning devices (second layer): Install column collars, steering wheel locks, signage, brake locks, and aftermarket alarms with blinking security lights.

Install immobilisers, which are aftermarket devices fitted to vehicles in order to prevent engines from running unless the correct key or other secondary input is present. This prevents a vehicle from being ‘hot wired’.

  • Immobilising devices: Use intelligent keys, fuse cut-offs, kill switches, disablers, and wireless ignition.

The final layer of security involves something many fleets are using to help drivers do their jobs better – telematics and fleet management systems.

In addition to the above, Netstar also recommends a few ways to prevent smash-and-grabs and other crimes of opportunity:

  • Visibility: Install the darkest legal limit of a tint of vehicle windows and remove or hide any valuables.
  • Protection: Install metal mesh, build secure compartments to hold valuable tools, and reinforce door locks.
  • Identifiers: Mark all tools and equipment with permanent identifiers and catalogue them to increase recovery chances.
  • Deterrents: Add stickers that indicate the vehicle has additional security measures or consider security lights.

Advanced principles

a. Implement GPS tracking systems and telematics

The first step for any fleet manager should involve implementing vehicle tracking systems. By installing Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking devices in all the fleet vehicles, will allow the company to monitor routes, prevent unauthorised use, and aid in the recovery of stolen vehicles.

Two key components of these solutions are GPS tracking and geofencing.

GPS tracking

Real-time monitoring: Installing GPS tracking devices in fleet vehicles allows for real-time monitoring of their location. This capability is vital for several reasons:

  • Route optimisation: Helps in planning and optimising routes to improve efficiency and reduce fuel consumption.
  • Unauthorised use detection: Allows fleet managers to track any unauthorised use of the vehicles, ensuring they are only used for intended purposes.
  • Stolen vehicle recovery: In the unfortunate event of a vehicle being stolen, GPS tracking facilitates quick recovery by providing precise location data.


Enhanced control: Geofencing involves setting up virtual boundaries around specific geographic areas. This feature offers multiple benefits:

  • Alerts for entry and exit: Fleet managers receive instant alerts when vehicles enter or exit these designated areas. This enables better control over vehicle movements.
  • Theft reduction: By monitoring the vehicle’s movement within the geofenced areas, the risk of theft is significantly reduced. Any suspicious activity can be detected and addressed promptly.

By leveraging GPS tracking and geofencing, fleet operators can significantly enhance the safety and security of their vehicles, ensuring smoother operations and better protection against theft and unauthorised use.

b. Enhance security measures

Enhancing the security of fleet vehicles is critical to preventing theft and ensuring the safety of your assets. Here are some effective strategies and devices to bolster your fleet’s security:

Invest in better security measures

Equip your vehicle with state-of-the-art security systems such as:

  • Alarm systems: They are designed to detect unauthorised entry or tampering with your vehicle. They typically consist of sensors placed on doors, windows, and other entry points, which trigger a loud siren or horn when activated. This loud alert not only deters thieves but also alerts nearby individuals to potential criminal activity, increasing the likelihood of intervention or apprehension. Modern alarm systems may also come equipped with features such as remote arming/disarming and smartphone notifications, allowing you to stay connected and in control of your vehicle’s security at all times.
  • Access controls: They help enhance gate security and regulate access within truck yards or storage facilities, so only authorised drivers gain access to cargo.

Deploy immobilisation device

Institute electronic immobilisers that obstruct vehicle ignition in the absence of the correct key or access code. Ensuring the resilience of these devices against tampering or circumvention is paramount to fortifying your fleet’s security apparatus.

c. Driver monitoring and training

Better driving significantly reduces fuel consumption by up to 20%, so it really is worth investing in. By having clear safety rules and regulations in place, your drivers will have a better idea of how to play it safe on the road. This will not only keep them and your vehicles safe, but it will also help you avoid unnecessary and costly downtime.

So how do you do it?

  • Have safety rules and regulations in place: It’s a good idea to create a fleet handbook that drivers can always keep with them.
  • Telematics systems: Use telematics to monitor driver behaviour, including speed, braking, and idling.
  • Driver training programmes: Conduct regular training sessions to educate drivers on safe driving practices and security protocols.
  • Use background checks and security training to protect your employees: Trustworthy drivers and security protocols are essential to ensuring the safety and security of your vehicles.
  • Implement driver authentication protocols: Institute stringent authentication measures to ascertain that only authorised personnel can access and operate fleet vehicles. Biometric systems, key cards, or secure Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) serve as effective deterrents against unauthorised vehicle usage.

d. Regular maintenance and inspections

Institute a proactive approach to fleet maintenance by conducting routine checks. Timely resolution of mechanical issues not only ensures driver safety but also mitigates the risk of vehicular breakdowns, which can render vehicles susceptible to theft.

So how do you do it?

  • Scheduled maintenance: Follow a strict maintenance schedule to keep vehicles in optimal condition.
  • Inspections: Perform regular inspections to identify and fix any potential security vulnerabilities, such as faulty locks or alarms.

e. Insurance and legal compliance

Insurance coverage is a fundamental part of operating a business with a fleet of vehicles, especially when it comes to protecting against the threat of cargo theft. Here are some factors to consider when choosing an insurance plan:

  • Comprehensive insurance: Ensure vehicles are covered by comprehensive insurance policies that include theft and damage protection.
  • Legal requirements: Stay updated on and comply with all legal requirements and regulations related to fleet management and vehicle security.
  • Tailor your policy: Work with your insurance provider to customise insurance policies to meet the unique needs of your business. Tailored policies may take into account factors such as:

– Type of cargo being transported

– Value of goods at risk

– Shipment frequency and distance

– Geographic regions served

  • Review your policy regularly: As your business grows or diversifies its operations, your insurance needs may change accordingly. Meet with your insurance provider periodically to assess the adequacy of your coverage, identify any gaps, and explore options for enhancing protection through additional coverage.
  • Additional coverage options: These may include specialised policies for high-value cargo, coverage for goods in transit across international borders, or coverage for specific types of cargo susceptible to theft, such as electronics, pharmaceuticals, or luxury goods.

f. Install dash cams and surveillance systems

Employ closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras strategically, both within and outside the fleet vehicles. The deployment of telematics systems complements this strategy by recording comprehensive data on vehicle usage, driver behaviour, and maintenance activities, thus offering a holistic perspective on fleet tracking.

  • Dash cameras: Equip vehicles with dash cams to record trips and provide evidence in case of accidents or theft.
  • Surveillance cameras: Use external cameras in parking areas and depots to monitor and record activities around the vehicles.

g. Listen and learn from your community

Your community can help spread awareness for potential threats and be an added layer of protection on the road. Share information and collaborate with other businesses and law enforcement agencies to stay informed about any emerging threats.

Many communities have online portals, email newsletters, or apps where members share information or report suspicious activity. Whether it’s forming neighbourhood watch groups, participating in community events, or volunteering for local initiatives, building relationships within your community can create a resilient support system that not only protects your business, but also strengthens the fabric of the entire community.

h. Collaborate with law-enforcement agencies

Cultivate collaborative relationships with local law enforcement entities. Provide them with pertinent information about your fleet and work collaboratively on strategies to prevent theft and expedite the recovery of stolen vehicles. Timely reporting of theft incidents significantly enhances the prospect of successful recovery.


By conscientiously incorporating these measures into your fleet management protocol, fleet managers can significantly enhance the safety and security of their vehicles, ensuring smooth operations and reducing the risk of theft or damage.

This proactive approach not only safeguards against financial losses but also underscores your commitment to the uninterrupted efficiency of fleet operations.

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