HGVs and depots key targets for thieves this Christmas

In the run-up to the festive season, and as the UK’s roads become busier than ever with festive-filled HGVs, we delve into the number of HGV thefts in the last three years and highlight how haulage and freight companies could reduce the chance of stolen goods and vehicles. 

The new report’s findings are based on insight obtained by us through Freedom of Information requests (FOIs) sent to 45 UK police constabularies¹. Of those contacted, 18 failed to respond, and 11 refused to provide the requested information.   

According to our insight, Sussex is the top county for the most HGV thefts (87) since 2020. Other locations follow closely behind, including:

  1. Sussex Police (87) 
  2. Hertfordshire Constabulary (67) 
  3. Bedfordshire Police (38) 
  4. Derbyshire Constabulary (14) 
  5. Surrey Police (13) 
  6. North Wales Police (12) 
  7. Humberside Police (9) 
  8. Lancashire Constabulary (8)
  9. Lincolnshire Police (6) and Police Service of Northern Ireland (6) 
  10. Durham Constabulary (5) and Gwent Police (5) 

Locations with highest number of HGV thefts 

Between 2020 and 2022, the South East England county of Sussex had a shocking 87 HGVs stolen within their constabulary. Included in the FOI data provided to us, 10 dropside lorries were stolen over the three years, with five in 2020 and four in 2022. In 2021, four flat lorries were stolen, and 20 tippers were stolen from drivers during the three years. 

Locations from which HGVs were stolen in Sussex include streets/roads, industrial estates, open-air car parks, and lay-bys. In Hertfordshire, 35 of the lorries stolen were classified as ‘tippers’, and 19 were classified just as a ‘lorry’. 

In Bedfordshire, 11 HGVs were stolen in 2020, with 10 stolen in 2021 and 17 in 2022. The towns in this county which were hotspots for HGV thefts include Luton (6), Kempston (4), and Bedford (4). Interestingly, theft locations in Derbyshire (14) included a truck stop, a HGV storage yard, and a service station. 

The rise of HGV thefts 

In recent years, truck stops and service stations have been key targets for thieves. In May, two men were charged following stealing £125k worth of chewing gum from a service station in Gloucestershire², while in August, perpetrators stole £250k worth of trainers from a lorry at Lockerbie truck stop³. 

Compared to the year ending March 2021 and the year ending March 2022, lorry traffic increased by 10%, and motorway traffic increased by 38%?. With this in mind and online shopping orders increasing considerably since Black Friday, the number of HGVs on the roads will likely be significant from now until the end of the year. Subsequently, vehicles will be filled with Christmas goods and will be key targets for thieves over this period. 

Not only are lorries a potential hit, but depots are too. In November, a Stallingborough delivery depot was ram-raided, with culprits taking between 500 to 800 parcels?. According to onlookers, a large vehicle smashed into the shutters hosting the parcels, which resulted in an easy recovery for the thieves. The depot had CCTV installed, but no other perimeter protection. 

Our security experts highlight that thieves could also be targeting the HGV themselves. If offenders were able to retrieve a large vehicle like a lorry, this could assist them in a large-scale vehicle attack, which could result in substantial damage to property, surrounding areas, and human life. 

Based in Yorkshire, Managing Director of Morris and Son, Andy Needham, shares his HGV theft experience, where a £160,000 arctic tractor unit and trailer was stolen from their yard in Barnsley: “Two arctic wagons were parked up in our yard over the Queen’s funeral weekend, and the thieves came over the gates, were able to disable the electronics of the vehicle which meant they could get into the cab, and then re-programmed the ignition system, which allowed them to drive away with our HGV. 

“It’s clear these thieves are exceptionally equipped to carry out a theft of this magnitude. They even brought their own DAF registration plates, ready to change before they stole the vehicle. They reversed the arctic trailer (40 tonnes) through the gates and demolished them to pieces. It was stolen at midnight, and the CCTV monitoring had a blind spot they took advantage of – we’ve since sorted this.

“The terrifying thing is knowing these thieves are still out there and sophisticated in this type of crime. I believe that these people must have included someone that previously worked within DAF, and therefore have the experience, knowledge and equipment to carry a theft out so easily.

“We were lucky enough to recover the vehicle and its contents due to additional tracking measures we have installed, but it impacted the business massively due to the time spent dealing with the incident. The theft happened in mid-September last year, but it’s still impacting the business today. The gates were destroyed, and we’ve had to have temporary repairs installed until they can be fixed properly. We’re still in the process of gathering quotes for the insurance company, but this is such a slow process, which is adding to our loss of time. 

“What struck us too is the number of businesses that have got in touch with us to let us know they’ve dealt with something similar and that it’s a common occurrence. If we had bollards in place to protect our perimeter in the first instance, it could have prevented the theft and saved us a lot of hassle. It’s something that we’re seriously considering for the future.”

Mitigating HGV theft and attacks 

To help stop HGV theft, haulage, delivery, and freight companies should consider implementing physical security products to mitigate theft and attacks. 

While there may be an initial investment to consider, by mitigating such attacks and thefts, communities will not only have access to a vital resource, but the financial loss and impact on insurance claims will also be lessened.

For a company that works with HGVs, other causes of a loss of earnings from a theft of a cab or trailer could include having a driver off the road, having to cover the cost of stolen goods, the impact on insurance premiums, and the potential loss of contracts due to inability to deliver. 

Road freight crime costs the UK economy £250 million every year. Considering this, installing hostile vehicle mitigation systems such as anti-ram bollards would be worth the investment to protect vital assets and enable haulage firms to continue to operate at full capacity.  

Choosing the best premier protection 

Depending on the property or area your business is protecting, the hostile vehicle mitigation product (HVM) chosen may differ and range from HVM road blockers and bollards. 

We have a variety of solutions available that can be made to your site requirements. All of our products are crash-tested to standards, including PAS68, IWA 14, and ASTM. We can also support our products with different customisations to enhance your security further or to make them more aesthetically pleasing. 

For more guidance on the best perimeter protection for your business, please get in touch: https://www.heald.uk.com/get-in-touch/ 


  1. UK police constabulary Freedom of Information insight obtained by Heald in November 2022. 
  2. Facilities 
  3. DnG24
  4. RAC Foundation 
  5. Grimsby Telegraph 
  6. UK Border Agency 

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