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According to National Crime Information Bureau (NCIB), as much as $1 billion a year is lost nationwide due to theft of construction equipment and tools–and the recovery rate is less than 20 percent. The cost of stolen equipment goes beyond the cost of replacement. Contractors may need to move equipment from other locations to meet jobsite demands. Time spent filing police and insurance reports costs staff time, and if the equipment is used in a crime or damages personal property, the contractor may be liable.In Commercial Heavy Equipment Theft: Fraud Solutions Now, NCIB states, “Value and mobility are two key factors that influence whether or not thieves are likely to steal a piece of heavy equipment. Newer pieces of equipment are more likely to be stolen than older ones, and age, condition, and brand determine a machine's perceived value. Thefts also spike during peak construction months. Indirectly, their losses also cause costly job delays, downtime for businesses, and higher insurance premiums.”

There are ways to beat the odds, however.

  1.  Install anti-theft or recovery devices with a tracking transmitter system in vulnerable or valuable pieces of heavy equipment. GPS systems can shut down equipment remotely or send instant or delayed notification when a piece of equipment is moved. Examples include radio frequency ID devices and radio or cellular signal assisted technology. Other theft deterrents include fuel shutoffs and wheel locks, tagging devices that activate an alarm, geofencing that establishes boundaries, and encrypted or electronic keys. Remove fuse and circuit breakers when equipment is unattended.
  2. Maintain an accurate inventory of equipment and tools in the fleet with the year, make, model, photo, purchase date, and full PIN/serial number. Stamp or engrave equipment parts with identifying marks, numbers or corporate logos. Consider painting equipment a bold color that stands out and can be easily identified from a distance.

  3. Register equipment with the National Equipment Register (NER) www.ner.net.

  4. Use locks and immobilizers. Immobilizers are effective on equipment that is left in remote sites or is unattended for long periods. Following are additional effective techniques.

  • Cluster equipment with smaller, portable equipment such as compressors and generators in the middle surrounded by larger pieces of equipment.
  • Use hydro locks that fix articulated equipment in a curved position to prevent the equipment from moving in a straight line.
  • Use sleeve locks to fix backhoe pads in an extended position, keeping wheels off the ground.
  • Install a system that disables the equipment's electrical or ignition system if universal keys are used.
  1. Secure the jobsite. Use fencing, install security cameras and motion sensors. Work with local police for frequent patrols or hire private security. Avoid leaving equipment in remote areas; secure or hide the equipment. To secure:
  •  remove keys from equipment or vehicles;
  • place smaller items in locked vehicle or container;
  • use cable and chain locks; and
  • limit access to keys.

According to NER, the top 10 states for equipment theft in 2013 are:

  1. Texas
  2. Florida
  3. California
  4. South Carolina
  5. North Carolina
  6. Washington
  7. Oklahoma
  8. Louisiana
  9. Missouri
  10. Tennessee
NER lists the types of equipment most likely to be stolen (Fall 2012) as:

  1. tractors
  2. utility cards
  3. compact tracked loaders
  4. skid steer loaders
  5. commercial mowers
  6. backhoe loaders
  7. mini excavators
  8. welder generators
  9. towable generators
  10. light towers

Report suspected insurance fraud or theft to the NCIB by calling (800) TEL-NICB or submit information at www.nicb.org.

Download NICB’s brochure, Commercial Heavy Equipment Theft: Fraud Solutions Now, which is available in English and Spanish.

Register equipment with the NER’s database by visiting info@ner.net or calling (866) 663-7872.


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