Business Clinic: Keys left in tractors – are they insured?

Farmers Weekly‘s Business Clinic experts offer free advice on legal, finance, tax, insurance, farm management and land issues.

In this article farming insurance specialist Chris Walsh set out vehicle security issues.

Q  My neighbour says insurers turned down his tractor theft claim because they keys had been left in. Is this correct – and if I fit security devices, will it bring down my premium?

A The days when tractor keys were seldom removed from the cab have long gone. With upwards of £70,000 now giving you improved manoeuvrability, technology and power, modern tractors are highly desirable to organised international criminal gangs. Lax border security outside Europe only increases this threat to UK farmers.

chris walsh
Chris Walsh
Farm insurance specialist

Tractor theft peaked in 2010, a time when security on many tractors was still poor and fewer police and customs officers were aware of international thefts.

Since then, better security and improved policing has almost halved the cost of tractor theft in the UK.

See also: Is my working dog covered by farm insurance

However, thieves continue to find ways to circumvent security measures and we are seeing worrying increases in tractor theft in some regions. Incidents of criminals stealing essential and valuable equipment such as GPS devices have also been reported.

Insurance companies therefore require policyholders to take “reasonable care” when both using and leaving the tractor unattended.

Depending on their knowledge of farming practices, insurers’ stances on what this means can vary. Y

ou may be opening a gate, unloading or simply parked up, but if the vehicle or its contents are stolen and the ignition keys are left in the vehicle, not all insurers will pay out.

To better understand how your theft cover operates, your insurance policy wording will show the clauses or conditions that apply if you are claiming following a theft.

Alternatively contact your local insurance agent or broker for an explanation.

Effective security devices make it more difficult for thieves to steal tractors.  Cesar marking – which features a highly visible plate on the tractor body and hidden chips elsewhere which can be “read” by authorities across the world – is a good starting point. 

Higher levels of security are also provided by immobilisers and tracker devices.

For good security and safety, it always makes sense for you and your workers to “switch off” and remove keys. The removal of portable GPS devices, goods and high-value personal effects should always be considered too.

Insurers will reward you for improving your tractor’s security by using Cesar markings and fitting approved devices, with specialist agricultural insurers giving premiums discounts of up to 27.5%.

Tractor security checklist

  • Protect vehicles by registering them with CESAR
  • Remove keys and lock vehicles whenever tractors are unattended
  • Have the Vehicle Identification Number etched on vehicle windows
  • Ensure all machinery is locked out of sight in buildings overnight
  • Prevent opportunist theft by locking yard gates
  • Fit Thatcham-approved immobiliser devices (preferably Thatcham accredited)
  • Consider telematics/tracking technology, which gives the location of vehicles 24/7 

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