How to Reduce Your Risk of Contractor Equipment Theft


by Michael S.,

Why does large equipment on a construction site always seem to be a target for thieves? There isn’t just one reason for this, but instead a plethora of reasons. Work sites can be remote and not well lit or secure. When equipment is left at these types of sites, it becomes an easy target. Many manufacturers of mobile equipment provide common keys that can fit the cab door and ignition for various models—so if someone has one key, it may be a master key for multiple pieces of equipment. Other contributing factors include delays in theft discovery, such as when equipment is stolen over a weekend, and lack of on-site recordkeeping.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) estimates that equipment theft costs total between $300 million and $1 billion each year—and it is on the rise.

It is not surprising there are two key factors that determine what type of equipment is most likely to be stolen: mobility and value. Commercial lawn mowers and riding tractors are by far the most stolen types of equipment. The NICB reports that landscaping equipment accounts for 43% of all job site equipment thefts. It also makes sense that while an excavator is more valuable, it is also more difficult to move—so it isn’t surprising this type of equipment comprises only 3% of thefts. Other more common types of equipment stolen are loaders such as skid steers, backhoes, and wheel loaders at 17% and tractors at 12%. While there is variance by state and type of equipment stolen, reports show that only 21-23% of stolen equipment is ever recovered.

So, with theft on the rise, what can you do to prevent this from happening to you? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Take an inventory. Record all equipment you own or lease, including the manufacturer, model name and number, serial or VIN numbers, as well as photos (use your smartphone).
  • Secure your equipment and tools. Remove any keys and use gang boxes to secure generators, smaller power tools, and hand tools. For larger pieces of equipment, chain or cable them together. Invest in good locks.
  • Immobilizing large equipment. Remove the battery or wires and lower the blades or buckets. This makes the equipment nearly impossible or, at the very least, difficult to move.
  • Secure the work site. Add lighting and security cameras. For larger job sites, perimeter fencing also provides a heightened level of protection.
  • Consider GPS tracking devices for your equipment. Not only can these units track the location of stolen equipment, there are additional benefits including measuring machine hours and tracking usage history.
  • Put your company logo or other identifying marker on your equipment. Consider a bright or unusual paint color. Make it noticeable and difficult to remove.

Many of these suggestions require a little extra time and attention, but they may make the difference between your equipment being on the job site next time you return or having to report a theft. Do you have other ways to deter thieves from stealing your equipment? Let us know in the comment section below.


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