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Heavy Equipment Theft Prevention

Heavy equipment is an enticing target for those that prefer high-risk, high-reward theft endeavors. With a low arrest rate or repercussions for the thief, these facts can propel the thieves to be quite brazen in their attempts and successes. The National Equipment Register (NER), and National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), estimate losses to construction companies are between $300 million and $1 billion annually. Less than 25% of stolen construction materials and equipment are recovered.

Theft typically occurs in laydown areas, or where equipment is stored, particularly on a temporary job site. Rental companies have high exposure due to their own facilities, and as previously mentioned, the large number of pieces of equipment that are rented, and in use and stored on projects over a vast geographical area.

Why is Heavy Equipment Stolen?

The reward for the thief far outweighs the risk. Thieves are attracted to heavy equipment theft for the following reasons:

  • Registration of off-road vehicles and equipment is not required as the equipment does not meet the definition of “motor vehicle” or “commercial motor vehicle” according to FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration)
  • Equipment is identified by product identification numbers, not the same VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) standards used for cars and trucks
  • There is a high demand for heavy equipment
  • There is often little mechanical or site security
  • Heavy equipment is valuable and easy to resell
  • There is a low rate of recovery
  • Arrests may not be made if the item is recovered; if an arrest is made, it could be a light penalty or no conviction at all

How Can You Protect Yourself Against this Kind of Theft?

To help reduce the frequency of heavy equipment theft, a comprehensive theft prevention program should be implemented. The components of a program should include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Record the make, model, serial number and/or VIN numbers of each piece of equipment. This documentation should be stored in a secure location, away from the job site. Post a sign on the equipment, or at the entry point to the site where equipment is stored, that explicitly states this is done.
  • Register all heavy equipment through local law enforcement efforts (Operation Identification), the National Equipment Register or the National Crime Information Center
  • Consider investigating and utilizing technology for not only theft protection, but systems that can use machine learning, and data to not only protect the equipment from a theft situation but may ultimately assist with machine/operator productivity concepts.
  • Fence all job sites with a minimum 6-foot chain-link fence and secure all gates with heavy chains and locks. Consider the layout of the site, eliminate hidden views.
  • Light all job sites using high quality, LED lighting in applicable areas and entry points.
  • Develop and follow a key (access) management program for equipment. Keep record of whom in the organization has keys to what pieces of equipment.
  • Secure all mobile equipment by installing mechanical means, such as tire locks, drive control locks, trailer hitch locks, hydraulic bypasses, fuel cutoffs, hydraulic arm locks, ignition bypasses, etc.
  • Track all heavy equipment using electronic GPS systems

For large job sites that contain several high value pieces of equipment and tools, consider purchasing a security camera system, or hiring a security guard service to patrol the site randomly or routinely during all nonworking hours.

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