With vehicles jammed full of high-tech DVD players, flat screen TVs, premium sound systems, satellite systems, fancy lighting and crystal glassware, livery vehicles are clearly on the radar of thieves.
Not to mention, rogue chauffeurs who start figuring out ways to provide unauthorized rides and pocket the money. Setting up systems to protect your vehicles is not an option but a necessity. When thieves decide to steal, they can become very creative in determining how to go about accomplishing their goals. Using a combination of technology and good old fashioned rules and common sense, you can monitor your equipment and even recover it if it is stolen.
Knowing the locations of your vehicles
This is by far the most important deterrent to incurring a loss of either unpaid usage or the physical theft of your vehicle. It is critical for you to set rules about when a vehicle can be taken out of the garage, taken home, and brought back to the garage after a job. This is best established during orientation of new employees. Make sure you have a clear policy on this.
Since most insurance companies prohibit vehicles from being taken home, such a policy can help ensure you will not have an uncovered theft or vandalism claim. This is not to say between runs your employee cannot take the vehicle home until his next trip in the same day, but speaks more toward the regular storage of vehicles at a chauffeur’s house. Most insurance companies send out a loss prevention specialist to examine your storage facility at the time a new policy is implemented to assess the risk, and they expect you to park your vehicles there when not in use.
Curbing unauthorized usage
By establishing systems to control access to the storage facility and vehicle keys, you can minimize the chance of unauthorized usage. Having chauffeurs maintain regular communication with a dispatcher, owner, or manager about their current status reinforces that you want to know vehicle locations at all times. One method of making sure your chauffeurs are not performing unauthorized trips is to require them to report to dispatch the vehicle’s odometer mileage when starting and ending each job.
Using a fleet fuel vendor such as FleetCard or Arco requires the chauffeur to enter his unique ID number, the fleet vehicle number, and the mileage. Of course, the time and location of the fuel purchase is documented and can be compared to the day’s assignments. All trips should document the time when a vehicle leaves the garage, arrives at the pickup location, loads, or disembarks a client. The mileage also should be recorded at the very minimum when the job starts and ends.
Storing your vehicle
Obviously your choice of where to store your vehicles can limit access to internal theft as well as becoming a victim of a car burglar or having your vehicle stolen.
Ideally, a large commercial building sufficient for housing all of your fleet indoors is the best line of protection. Access to the building should be monitored and controlled. There are a variety of technologies at your disposal to accomplish this. With the cost of computers and web-cams plummeting, the ability to view your facility and record events is relatively cheap.
A basic PC with Internet access and a $20 web cam will allow you to physically “see” who comes in and out of your shop and what they do while inside. While some may argue this is an invasion of privacy, there is no privacy when employees are inside your facility, except for restrooms. Using an alarm company to monitor access is an ongoing expense when compared to the one-time investment of a web-cam system but offers more protection and immediate response from law enforcement if something goes wrong.
Alarm companies can use a keypad or telephone call-in system to document who entered and exited the building using an individual code for each authorized person. Each entry and exit is recorded on a log with the exact times. If someone enters without the proper code or the building is forcibly entered, law enforcement will be dispatched immediately.
Since you can’t monitor your web-cam 24/7, this provides a higher level of protection and may lower your insurance premium slightly by having the alarm. In the absence of a commercial building, a commercial lot is an alternative. Electronic gates can be installed that monitor access codes in the same method as an alarm system. Make sure your outdoor lot has high fencing topped with razor wire, or better yet, use tall aluminum siding panels that are almost impossible to climb because of their lack of footholds.
Make sure the lot is well-lit at night as thieves generally prefer the cover of darkness. Web-cams are also available in outdoor infrared models. Perimeter “beam” alarm systems can be used to notify you if someone is in the yard moving around and crosses a beam. You can use an alarm company for this or an automatic dialer that will call your cell phone upon being activated.
SIDEBAR: Using technology
GPS systems have become so affordable they should be installed in every vehicle. With GPS transmitters costing as little as a couple hundred bucks and monitoring fees being about $25 per vehicle, the benefits make it a slam dunk decision to install.
A GPS transmitter can spot your vehicle at any time. This is invaluable for recovering a stolen vehicle. It measures speed and even calls your cell phone if a vehicle is moving too fast or leaves a predefined area. It indicates vehicle direction and time and location of ignition.
Onboard camera systems such as Drive-Cam can document hard acceleration, hard braking, fast turns, and even entering a driveway too fast. This investment can save you hundreds of dollars of fuel each year, save on brake-pads and wheel alignments, and of course, document who was at fault in an accident. Since the cameras work on aggressive motion, it is possible a forced entry of your vehicle will trigger the camera and record the thief in action.
Since the camera is non-descript and mounted on the rear-view mirror, it is likely crooks would not even see it or know what it is.
Of course there is old-fashioned gum-shoe technology that can’t be beat. Periodically, get out from behind the desk and go drive to a pickup location and watch your chauffeur as they deliver service and follow them for a bit. You might be surprised at what you find. You also might consider employing a “mystery rider” to evaluate your chauffeur and the overall performance of service to find out how your chauffeur treats your vehicle.