Back to Back Issues Page
All Aboard!, Issue #002 -- Thieves getting away with mini-coaches and expert advice on prevention
August 22, 2012

All Aboard! - eNews

The latest on everything in the passenger transport industry: changes in legislation, tips for road safety, CPC training dates,...

Table of Contents


1. Thieves getting away with mini-coaches in West-London

It’s not just catalytic converters that are at risk of being stolen, but entire vehicles. Two West London-based operators have seen between them 3 of their Mercedes Sprinter mini-coaches disappear from the area within 4 weeks. All 3 vehicles disappeared without a trace and without being picked up by the junction cameras.

All this indicates that the thieves weren’t random opportunists, but extremely well-organised professionals who know how to deal with the vehicles immobiliser technology as well as how to avoid detection by the ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) system that scans footage from road side cameras.

Despite its distinctive look, Access All Area’s rock 'n roll bus
has disappeared without a trace

Sprinter theft has been “rampant” in London and the home counties for the last 2 years according to the Department of Criminal Investigation (DCI). In the majority of the cases, the vehicles are stolen to order, to supply Eastern European markets with spare parts. That would explain why the 3 stolen mini-coaches are the older type Sprinters.

Speed is of the essence to recover a stolen vehicle before it gets dismantled. Despite additional costs, trackers give the best chance of recovery. When a vehicle is stolen, the tracker is activated and the coordinates sent to the police. “This leads us to the vehicle and 9 out of 10 times it will be in a warehouse or garage with other stolen vehicles present that don’t have a tracker fitted”, said D.I. Stokes.

Mark Monk, Fleet Team Manager at Wrightsure agrees: “When you have a reliable vehicle that your business cannot do without, “overkill” never hurts. While the additional cost could be difficult to swallow, it has to be balanced against the potential loss of a vehicle.”

Table of contents

2. Anti-theft advice from the experts

Following the theft of the mini-coaches, we spoke with Detective Ian Elliott, who is part of the Metropolitan Police’s Specialist Stolen Vehicles Unit, a very small but expert unit.

The picture painted is not a very pretty one. Where specialist vehicle theft was initially a London problem, it has now spread to all metropolitan areas in the country. The number 1 stolen vehicle is the Ford Transit, with 1300 of them stolen last year in London alone. Sprinters are the second largest problem group.

The unit is well aware of the scale of the problem and has been working closely with manufacturers to increase safety features on specialist vehicles, now that the criminals have caught up with the technology. Not only do they know how to tap into the ECU to bypass the key chip, they bring along a set of components to replace any part that may be blocking the ignition sequence.

In spite of the numerous arrests made, the scale of the problem is not diminishing, due to the infinite demand for parts and equally limitless supply of would-be criminals from Eastern Europe.

With that in mind, the best defence against vehicle theft is to add more layers of security, to slow down and eventually discourage thieves. Detective Elliott made the following recommendations:

  1. Replace door locks with high security locks
    The central locking system of recent model Sprinters can easily be accessed through the wiring loom in the back door. This issue has now been addressed by Mercedes for new vehicles. Existing vehicles could be protected by the installation of Thatcham certified security locks.

  2. Install an after-market alarm or secondary immobilizer
    This almost goes back to 20-year old methods: installing a switch somewhere in the cab that will prevent starting the vehicle, even if the factory-installed immobilizer gets by-passed. Crucial here is that it has to be wired in correctly, i.e. not straight into the ECU.

  3. Install a tracking system
    If the previous measurements haven’t stopped the vehicle from being taken, it is vitally important that it can be tracked and recovered before it gets cut up in parts. This is the fate of all stolen vehicles; no exceptions!

Table of contents


1. Less than a year to go

The September 2013 deadline to complete 35 hours of periodic training for drivers with "grandfather rights" is fast approaching.

With only one winter season left for coach drivers to take time off from driving, Driver CPC sessions will fill up fast. Those putting things off until later in the year may find that training sessions have sold out.

Guarantee yourself space - and keep your licence! - by booking your remaining periodic training now.

Table of contents

2. Don't let your car end up in the scrap yard

Rather than high value cars, it's the "old bangers" that are currently targeted by thieves. The unprecedented high value of scrap metal, pushed up by high demand in Asia, has made older cars with little or no safety features particularly vulnerable.

Car thieves will grab every opportunity to cash in on this together with unscrupulous scrap yards, where vehicles get crushed within minutes of arrival.

Avoid your car being towed off by applying the following parking tips, offered by the Vehicle Crimes Squad:

  • Never reverse park; make the thieves reverse the vehicle out; it makes the towing that much harder and more time-consuming.
  • When parallel parking, steer the wheels into the curb and lock the steering wheel.
  • Leave the vehicle in gear if it's a manual or put it in Park if it's an automatic.

Table of contents

Driver CPC Courses

Our Driver CPC training courses are designed to suit the needs of your organisation. No "one-size-fits-all", but courses tailored specifically to the passenger transport industry.

We offer the following approved courses:

  • Driver's Hours & Tachograph Use (analog & digital): the rules on driving hours, Working Time Directive and the correct use of recording equipment.
    Fri 28/9/12 - Thu 18/10/12 - Tue 20/11/12
  • Drive Safe, Stay Legal: understanding your legal obligations, defect procedures, emergency procedures.
    Wed 26/9/12 - Fri 19/10/12 - Wed 21/11/12
  • Road Risk - Drug & Alcohol Awareness: safety issues on the road, effects of fatigue, drugs and alcohol use.
    Thu 27/9/12 - Wed 17/10/12 - Thu 22/11/12
  • Eco-Driving (on the road): driving techniques to encourage fuel-efficient driving (max. 2 drivers).
    Dates on request

Available from 1 November 2012:

  • Customer Service: communication and conflict management, working relationships and practical solutions to deal with customers.
  • Eco-Driving (classroom based): reduce fuel costs, maintenance costs and accident risk.

Bespoke training for company bookings.

We deliver training on-site or at a location of your choice.

Special rates available for group or multiple course bookings. Beat the rush and book now! The deadline is approaching fast.

For enquiries and bookings: or click here for an enquiry form.

Thanks for reading this longer issue, but we felt the topic warranted the extra space. If you want to leave a comment, click here.

Drive safely,

Back to Back Issues Page