Mitigating Equipment Theft

Equipment thieves are becoming more sophisticated, with an increased knowledge of where and when to look for valuable equipment that can be resold on the black market for a profitable return. According to the 2010 Equipment Theft Report, published jointly by the National Equipment Register and National Insurance Crime Bureau, 13,374 theft reports were filed in 2010, representing an increase of 162 percent from just five years earlier. Moreover, of all the reported stolen pieces of equipment in 2010, only 19 percent was recovered.

However, contractors and construction companies can do more than just hope that equipment thieves will avoid their job sites. Steps can be taken immediately to help reduce the likelihood of falling victim to theft.

  • Policies and procedures: Before starting a job, be sure to have a written project security policy in place. Policies and procedures to bolster security should become part of the way business is conducted. The policy and procedure handbook can be shared with and communicated to all employees, and rules should be vigilantly enforced. It’s important to assign security to key personnel and create emergency contact lists, which should be reviewed and updated regularly.
  • Communication and education: In addition to communicating with employees about security policies and procedures, it is also important to open a line of communication with local law enforcement. For example, make them aware of the type of equipment on-site and share the security policies and procedures. Ask for their input on how to best secure the work site and request that they patrol the area to add another layer of protection. Don’t forget to make them aware of your hours of operation so they can be on the lookout for lurkers during off hours. In addition to the police, encourage the public to report suspicious activity to the proper authorities.
  • “Key” management is key: While it may seem obvious to never leave keys in an ignition switch, and that enclosed cabs should be locked when machines are not in use, the incidents of theft in these situations happens more than might be suspected. Security-based keys, which cannot be copied without authority, can provide an additional layer of safety from theft. Security policies and procedures should outline clearly who is to have access to keys, where keys should be stored and other measures to ensure that your equipment isn’t an attractive target for thieves.
  • Yard and job site management: On the job site, make equipment theft more difficult by never leaving equipment and vehicles in remote or out-of-sight areas. Also, consider disabling and parking vehicles camp wagon-style (heel to toe) in a circle, when not in use. With equipment parked this way, not only is it harder to move, it is also easier for you and your employees to identify when something has been stolen. Don’t make your job site accessible to strangers: challenge strangers on the property, ask for identification and understand their purpose for being there. Don’t make it easier to steal your equipment by leaving tools such as torches, cut-off saws or bolt cutters, which can help thieves. Secure such equipment where it is inaccessible, preferably under lock and key. Double stamp ID numbers, or even the company name or other distinguishing marks, on all equipment and tools (one conspicuous and one well hidden), and place warning decals indicating that ID numbers have been recorded.
  • Technology: Technology provides an additional layer of protection in your overall security program, but it should not be viewed as a fix-all for protecting equipment from theft. From technology that can limit or delay access to equipment, help track assets and user behavior, assist in recovering and identifying assets, to controlling potential liability, technology can play an invaluable role in helping to protect against loss.

Today’s technology offers several options for proactively and reactively securing equipment as well as managing your fleet. Some devices offer secure ignition control requiring the operator to be in possession of a security card or key fob like device that signals the ignition of an authorized user. Without the card or key fob, the equipment simply cannot be started. Other devices offer real time tracking of equipment through covertly installed devices.

These devices can offer event notifications that are sent directly to your phone if the equipment is started, moved or passes beyond a geo-fenced area of the job site. The web-based interfaces for these types of devices allow the contractor to self-monitor their equipment. These options often offer fleet monitoring capabilities to track idle time, hours of use and the scheduled maintenance. While the needs and specifications of each job site should be based on the particular aspects of that project, the contractors can help limit the exposure to theft by taking a few simple preventive measures.

Additionally, contractors can work closely with their insurance agent and insurance carrier to review risk management tips and techniques to meet the specifications at each job site and protect against theft of valuable equipment, which can potentially significantly delay or impact a project.

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