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Protect your fleet

Vehicle tracking options help prevent theft and mitigate risk.


September 16, 2013
by By Kara Kuryllowicz

From the July-August 2013 print edition of Fleet Management

Chances are the individual who stole the load of laundry detergent or the SUV with AWD is part of a large, sophisticated organized crime ring with connections reaching well beyond Canada to West Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

Auto theft costs Canadians $1 billion annually. Cargo crime costs about $5 billion.

According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), auto theft costs Canadians $1 billion annually, when you include the cost of health care, court, policing, legal and out-of-pocket costs such as deductibles. Meanwhile, a recent study sponsored by the Canadian Trucking Alliance and others concluded that cargo crime costs about $5 billion.

Low-value consumer products such as t-shirts and consumables such as laundry detergent are popular targets because they are seen as relatively risk-free—easy to unload and tough to trace. Yet although it’s often perceived as a victimless crime, cargo theft puts truck drivers and other employees at risk. It also affects the productivity, efficiency and earning ability of the drivers and their companies, while shifting revenues from legitimate businesses to criminals and reducing tax revenues. As importantly, the cash derived from vehicle and cargo theft is typically used to fund illegal activities such as drug and gun smuggling.

“We believe that cargo theft is on the rise, but it’s tough to track accurately because the reporting tends to be inconsistent,” says Garry Robertson, national director, auto theft and vehicle services at IBC. “About 90 percent of the time, the tractor and trailer are recovered quickly but the cargo is typically sold within hours of being stolen to maximize cash-flow and minimize the risk.”

Surprisingly, up to 20 percent of the stolen cars, SUVs and pickups were easy picking for thieves because drivers left the keys in the ignition while in a coffee shop or at an ATM. Robertson suspects the figure is much higher, because drivers are unlikely to admit that.

Simple and obvious theft prevention strategies include locking the vehicle, tractors and trailers, parking them in well-lit spaces or enclosures, blocking them in with a barrier such as another vehicle and even fifth wheel locks that won’t allow the trailer to be hooked up to a tractor. Yet because thieves are increasingly determined and creative, drivers and corporations are stepping up to protect their assets with devices that track the vehicles to expedite and boost recovery rates.

LoJack, which partnered in January this year with TomTom, a supplier of location and navigation, is integrating TomTom’s Webfleet telematics solutions with LoJack’s Stolen Vehicle Recovery Network technology. The new product will launch in Ontario and Quebec in the late summer and early fall.

Currently, LoJack offers three self-powered, post-theft tracking devices available directly from LoJack or its dealers: the basic unit at $599, the Alert unit with a key fob at $999 and the most rugged C unit for commercial applications and more extreme conditions for $699. The unit must be installed by a LoJack technician who will conceal it in one of 40 strategic spots. Post-purchase there are no subscription fees, but the units must be replaced every seven years.

In 2012, 24,000 vehicles were stolen in Quebec and 23,000 vehicles taken in Ontario. In the past five years, LoJack claims it has recovered more than $350 million in assets in Canada and helped arrest more than 500 criminals. If the vehicle is not recovered within 48 hours, LoJack will cover the cost of the device.

OnStar Stolen Vehicle Slowdown uses GPS technology to pinpoint the location of the vehicle and provide it to authorities. It can then remotely block the ignition, making it impossible to restart the vehicle once it’s turned off. If the vehicle is moving, an OnStar advisor can work with the police to send a signal to the vehicle, forcing it to gradually and safely slow down.

OnStar services require the vehicle’s electrical system (including battery), wireless service and GPS satellite signals to be available and operational to function properly. OnStar’s Stolen Vehicle Slowdown is included as part of the Safe and Sound package which is available for $24.95 per month. On average, OnStar responds to more than 300 Stolen Vehicle Slowdown requests a month in North America.