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In 2018/2019, there were more than 114,000 vehicle thefts in England and Wales. This was up by over 8,000 compared to the previous year and marked a nine-year high for this type of crime.

These statistics are worrying, especially for fleet managers who are in charge of a large quantity of vehicles. Theft, and the repercussions of theft, can be extremely costly; in fact, according to a study by Verizon Connect, stolen vehicles cost fleets more than £16,000 per year. The study also found that businesses lose at least one vehicle to theft every year.

Financial loss of this scale can be catastrophic to small businesses, which is why it’s so important to protect your fleet against vehicle crime. Fleet operators have a number of options at their disposal to do this, which vary in their cost, efficiency and ease of use. Read on for our thoughts on some of the most common anti-theft devices on the market and how they compare.

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Steering wheel locks

A steering wheel lock is a device that attaches to your vehicle’s steering wheel and locks it in place, making it virtually impossible to drive away without unlocking the device first.

Steering wheel locks aren’t undefeatable, but they do act as one possible method of deterring thieves from vehicle theft. However, they rely on drivers to lock their steering wheels every time they leave the vehicle, so there’s risk of human error and negligence. For that reason, we recommend using steering wheel locks as part of a layered security approach.

Kill switches

A kill switch is used to interfere with the engine’s combustion process in order to shut it down in the quickest way possible in the event of a theft. They can stop vehicles through several different mechanisms, including:

  • Spark plug - This is one of the most common ways to stop a vehicle from running. When a kill switch interrupts the flow of electricity to the spark plug, the engine’s combustion stops, so that a thief is unable to drive away.

  • Process - Kill switches are connected to an engine’s circuits through a wire system. When the switch is set to ‘open’, it will block the electricity from causing the combustion necessary to run the engine, so that the vehicle can’t be driven.

  • Engine sensors - Some kill switches have sensors that can detect a certain RPM of the engine, a certain ratio from the spark plug, or both. This is the most effective way to shut the engine down without the chance of backfiring or other engine damage.


An immobiliser is an electronic security device fitted to a vehicle to stop it from running without the correct transponder key. Immobilisers work by disabling the ignition, starter motor and fuel system; this means that thieves can’t ‘hot-wire’ the vehicle, therefore reducing the chances of theft.

Covert tracking devices

Although the above methods are proven ways to help prevent vehicle theft, they can’t always be counted on to work 100% of the time.

For this reason, fleet managers should also take steps to ensure they can successfully recover stolen vehicles after a theft. The use of covert vehicle tracking devices is a cost-effective way to do this and, when combined with intelligent software and dashcams, can give you timely and accurate information on thieves’ behaviour without their knowledge.

Like traditional telematics solutions, covert tracking devices can be used to gather information on potential theft risk factors such as erratic driving behaviour or suspicious location data. This can then be analysed and reported back to fleet managers.

Unlike most OEM or aftermarket vehicle tracking devices, however, a covert device can’t easily be discovered and removed by tech-savvy criminals. If your vehicle does get stolen, this information will help you recover it quickly, which means you’ll avoid having to pay for expensive replacements or increased motor insurance claims.

Find out more

Want to know more about how in-car telematics can protect your fleet from motor thieves? Download our free guide for expert insights.

Top 5 things to consider when choosing a telematics supplier