Seemingly every day, a piece of valuable heavy equipment is stolen from a jobsite or a construction company yard. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, up to $1 billion might be stolen annually with only a small percentage of the missing equipment recovered. However, we here at the North America Heavy Equipment Training Services (NAHETS) believe that some of those thefts can be prevented with proper training, thorough record keeping, and consistent storage procedures. Also by preparing for the potential thefts, companies can minimize the tangential damage done when an incident occurs.
The calculated $1 billion in theft accounts for the cost of equipment but does not factor in secondary losses of things like work-time and other inconveniences caused by the heavy equipment thieves. Heavy equipment theft is prevalent throughout the construction industry and causes companies much pain and suffering.
A recent study by the LoJack Company revealed that the most popular types of stolen equipment were backhoe loaders, skip loaders, wheel loaders, skid steers, generators, air compressors, welders, light utility work trucks, forklifts and scissor lifts, and dump trucks. These types are stolen because they are easy to re-sell, there is a demand for them, and they are easier to steal than larger pieces of equipment. Ford vehicles were stolen more often than other makes. The next most commonly stolen brands were John Deere, Caterpillar, Bobcat, Case and Ingersoll-Rand.
So how can companies and employees prevent theft? Or at least minimize the damages when a theft occurs? There are several ways to do this, but chief among them is to remain consistent in all operations. Company management should keep tight records of all vehicles makes, models and major parts, serial numbers, VIN numbers, and other vital information. This helps because it gives law enforcement the best intelligence so they can try to recover the equipment. It also makes filing the insurance claims easier and receiving re-imbursement funds as quickly as possible.
We agree with a recent prevention guide from LoJack that offers several ideas for prevention. Companies should make an investment in overall heavy equipment security. The investment in watchmen can make an immediate impact in minimizing theft even though this is an expense not many companies wish to incur. Other prevention measures include ensuring that all operators are trained and instructed to leave vehicles and equipment in formations that make it as inconvenient as possible for thieves to steal them. Simply parking equipment together after each work shift can be a deterrent. Operators and management can also implement procedures such as placing and installing wheel locks, fuel shut offs, ignition locks, battery-disconnect switches, and vehicle tracking devices. Asking employees to be diligent in prevention will lead to fewer incidents.
Heavy equipment theft is an ugly problem in our industry. We hope that all equipment and construction companies stand together to fight this issue. After all, there wouldn’t be theft if rogue operators weren’t actively buying the stolen merchandise. At NAHETS, we are committed to supporting the construction industry and do our part through quality training that prevents theft, creates safe working environments, and prepare operators and company management to be the best and most efficient they can be.