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Loss Control Insights for Contractors

Protect Your Equipment from Theft

A backhoe on a construction site.

If your equipment is unavailable—whether it’s out of commission for repairs or stuck at another jobsite—your work suffers. And a long-term absence because of theft could really put you behind. You may not worry much about stolen assets, but theft is the most common cause of loss for equipment covered by inland marine policies, followed by collision and fire damage. Help make sure your equipment is ready when you need it by protecting it from theft and vandals.

New, Portable Equipment is In Demand

According to insurance claim data, thieves are most likely to target equipment that is newer, easily moved and easily sold. That means larger, harder to steal machines with a smaller resale market (e.g., dozers or trenchers) are actually less vulnerable than smaller equipment used for landscaping or material handling.

Equipment most likely to be stolen:

  • Mowers – riding and garden tractors
  • Loaders – skid steers, backhoes, wheel loaders
  • Tractors
  • Forklifts/lift trucks
  • Excavators

Anything kept on a trailer (generators, compressors and even building materials) is also a prime target, because it’s fast and convenient for a perpetrator to hook up their vehicle and leave before anyone notices.

Thieves Work Overtime on Weekends and Holidays

Jobsites are most likely to be targeted when they aren’t actively staffed—the majority of losses from theft (and vandalism) happen during weekends and holidays. Equipment is also more likely to be stolen during warm weather months (from April to September), peaking in May, June and July.

Equipment Losses May Come from the Inside

Many equipment thefts are crimes of opportunity—a passerby spots an unattended skid steer and decides to swipe it for some quick cash. Organized theft rings also exist, where perpetrators intentionally go out looking for vulnerable equipment that can be quickly trafficked out of the area and sold. Less often considered is that your own employees may be behind the disappearance of tools and equipment, especially if you don’t have good inventory practices or key control. They may be stealing themselves, or providing inside information to others to help them avoid security measures.

Use a Layered Approach to Prevent Theft

Control Access—Start by controlling who has access to your jobsite with good hiring practices. Monitor employees and visitors to the jobsite and consider training workers on theft prevention.

Know Your Equipment—Conduct regular inventories (weekly is good for promptly noticing if something is missing) to ensure you know what assets you have and where they are located. Record all serial numbers, and consider registering them with the National Equipment Register to aid in recovery of items stolen in the future. And don’t forget to update your equipment schedule with your insurance carrier to make sure your coverage will include any new purchases.

Secure Your Site—Use barriers and temporary fencing to control access to your jobsites. Warning signs can also help deter casual trespassers. Many thieves prefer to work under cover of darkness, so make your site as visible as possible at night with lighting and unobstructed views from the road. Lock up when everyone goes home and limit who has access to keys. Consider CCTV or guards for jobs where theft may be more likely.

Immobilize Equipment—Make it as inconvenient as possible to steal your equipment when the jobsite isn’t in use. Remove all equipment keys (beware of machines that use universal keys). You can make items harder to move by taking off removable wheels, installing hydraulic locks or track locks, chaining equipment together, adding a hitch lock or removing ignition components.

Park Defensively—Strategic parking can make your equipment significantly less attractive to thieves looking for an easy score. Park equipment in clusters with larger, harder to move machines blocking in smaller, easier to steal items.

Make Your Equipment Identifiable—Mark your tools and equipment with your company name using engraving, tags or die stamping. Add identification or serial numbers in hidden places where thieves may not think to remove them. You can also make your tools and equipment less attractive to buyers by painting it a non-standard color or otherwise making it stand out. For larger machines, consider painting a unique number or symbol on the top where it would be visible from the air.

Consider GPS Tracking—The market for GPS tracking is crowded with options ranging from tiny battery powered trackers to more robust hardwired tracking systems. Before choosing a GPS tracking system, consider how the following factors might affect your operations.

  • Battery life
  • Size and mounting (ease of transfer from one machine to another)
  • Geofencing capabilities (to notify you if equipment leaves a zone you have outlined)
  • Notification capabilities
  • Automated alarm availability
  • Need for engine diagnostic information
  • Integration with other applications or enterprise systems you’re already using

Create a plan for ensuring you track the right equipment, update location data and keep units charged.

Prevent Theft on the Road—Trailered equipment is vulnerable during transit, and rest stops are a common location for theft. If possible, avoid leaving equipment unattended while it’s being moved from one job to another.

Respond to Theft Immediately to Maximize Recovery Chances

If you notice theft or vandalism, report it immediately to local law enforcement. Report stolen equipment to your insurer and the National Equipment Registry as soon as possible.

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