STAFF at a well-known Bridgwater business are reeling after their entire vehicle fleet was targeted by slick thieves in a lightning weekend raid.
Directors at fruit and veg supplier Cossey Produce even fear the break-in at their Bristol Road base could put jobs in danger long-term.
Exhaust systems from all ten of the firm’s lorries were stolen, probably for scrap metal, around midnight on Saturday.
Mark Kidner, a director at the firm, which employs 80 staff, was stunned by the speed of the raiders.
He said: “They came in round the back and cut through the barbed wire to get in.
“They took all ten exhaust systems and some of the wiring in no time at all - it’s unbelievable.
“We caught them on CCTV and it shows them taking out one of the exhaust systems in about a minute and a half. Even the police could not believe it.”
Mr Kidner said the metal could have significant scrap value, but he said the raiders had given no thought to the damage they were inflicting on the business.
He said: “It’s a nightmare for us. We deliver fruit and veg boxes to schools and nursing homes and to individuals across the South-West.
“We think the exhaust systems are £2,000 a piece, that’s without the cost of wiring and fitting them, so without even thinking about it the damage is at least £20,000.
“We’ll have to pay some of that and our insurance premiums will go up.
“These people just don’t realise how much inconvenience and expense this has caused.
“It could cost people’s jobs long-term. At the end of the day, everybody is struggling in this economic climate and you just don’t need this.”
Cossey Produce has been able to complete most of its deliveries on time, however, thanks to support from a business based just next door.
Mr Kidner added: “Bridgwater Car and Van Hire loaned us ten of their vans on Sunday morning, and we were able to do our deliveries on Monday morning, although some were a bit late.”