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How to protect fleets against catalytic converter theft

At a glance

  • Catalytic converter crime is on the rise and can be a big problem for businesses
  • Thieves attracted to the precious metals used in catalytic converters
  • Fleets can employ a range of best practice preventative measures to deter criminals

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Thefts of catalytic converters from motor vehicles more than doubled between 2010 and 2013, according to research carried out last year by the BBC.

The investigation, for BBC Radio 4’s The World at One, was based on crime figures collected from 40 police forces around the UK and found that nearly 25,000 thefts were reported during this period.

The data showed that some parts of the country saw even higher rates with a tripling of thefts across Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Leicestershire, while Bedfordshire and South Yorkshire saw tenfold increases.

How to limit exposure to catalytic converter theft

  • Fleets with depots should obstruct high axle vehicles with smaller ones when parked overnight
  • Consider fitting specialist clamps or alarms
  • Use a specialist marking service with unique identifying numbers

Catalytic converters, which are designed to reduce emission levels, have been mandatory on all new petrol vehicles since 1992 and diesel-engined vehicles since 2001.

The police attributed the increases to the rising value on the international market of the precious metals used in catalytic converters: platinum, palladium and rhodium.

James Goodson, a senior analyst with British Transport Police, told the BBC: “We’ve identified that when there are increases in the price of these metals and materials then we often see an increase in the levels of theft reported to us.”

Lynn Jones, Senior Market Fleet Underwriter at Zurich, said the BBC research mirrors Zurich’s claims experience over the last five years with the most susceptible vehicles being those with high ground clearance, which enables thieves to crawl underneath to cut out the catalytic converters.

Stolen catalytic converters can fetch up to £200, making them a profitable target for professional thieves.

“Catalytic converter theft is a potential problem for all fleets running 4X4s, light commercial vehicles and trucks,” said Lynn. “These thefts result in unnecessary downtime which could have a serious impact on business operations.”

As an example, a claim for a catalytic converter theft on a 3.5 tonne Mercedes vehicle, which is a standard fleet model, could come to just over £2,000 – plus there is the inconvenience of not having a vehicle, hiring a replacement and any damage to reputation due to missed deadlines or business interruption to the supply chain.

Lynn also welcomed the introduction of the Scrap Metal Dealers Act in October 2013, which banned cash payments for scrap metal and obliges traders to record the identities of all their suppliers, saying the legislation would make it difficult for some thieves, although she believed organised criminals will still be able to operate.

Catalytic converter theft is a potential problem for all fleets running 4X4s, light commercial vehicles and trucks. These thefts result in unnecessary downtime which could have a serious impact on business operations

Lynn Jones, Senior Market Fleet Underwriter at Zurich

Remaining vigilant

Zurich advises fleets to be vigilant and take steps to safeguard their vehicles, especially those using depots to park their vehicles overnight.

“We’ve found a lot of thefts take place at night in company depots where several vehicles can be targeted at once,” said Lynn. “Our advice is to make sure the parking areas are well lit and ideally monitored by CCTV. Also park smaller vehicles next to those with high ground clearance to restrict access.”

Lynn also urges fleets to consider investing in specialist catalytic converter clamps, alarms or marking services which provide a unique serial number linked to the vehicle’s registration details.

“It’s important for fleets to make it as difficult as possible for thieves to operate by adopting best practice preventative measures,” added Lynn.

Image © Getty

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