The start of the summer typically marks the high point for consumer vehicle thefts, which is why we’ve designated July National Vehicle Theft Protection Month. Although these thefts usually get the most attention, it is also common for thieves to target commercial fleets, including construction vehicles and equipment. The 2014 National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) Heavy Equipment Theft Study revealed that an estimated $300 million to $1 billion in construction assets is lost due to theft each year. Despite this, there are common-sense strategies and technology solutions contractors can use to protect their vehicles and equipment.
The Construction Thief
Thieves who steal construction assets do so for the same reasons as those who go after consumer automobiles: to make money from selling the parts or by shipping the assets overseas to buyers. And like consumer car thieves, construction thieves tend to target the easy opportunities first—which may include an unsecured lot, busy development area and off-season or even natural-disaster recovery and repair sites. A striking difference from consumer auto theft, however, is that construction thieves take advantage of the low visibility and confusion of a job site.
For instance, if a site covers many acres, has hilly terrain or has many subcontractors, it’s easier for someone to walk in and move a vehicle or piece of equipment. Why? Because the assets are not visible, making them more vulnerable. With busy sites, deliveries and pickups may not be tracked, making it easier for thieves to drive off with a trailer and equipment undetected.
In addition, thieves will often remove the PIN or serial numbers, which are rarely registered (per the NICB study) compared with consumer vehicles’ VINs and titles on file at the DMV. Construction equipment is a common target of organized crime as well, which will employ sophisticated methods to take, transport and hide their stolen goods, including disabling visible technology or using master keys.
Common-Sense Protection Strategies
You don’t always need sophisticated tactics to keep your assets secure. There are actually several common-sense strategies and technology solutions contractors can use to protect themselves from most thefts:
- Brand your assets
Equipment does not have a title like a car. Therefore, it is wise to place an identifying number, such as the PIN or serial number, in other locations on the assets. Remember to also keep a list of assets with photos. This data will help you reclaim the equipment if it is stolen.
- Secure the job site
One of the most effective anti-theft measures contractors can take is to make sure their job site is secured at all times. This can involve something as simple as installing proper fencing, motion detectors and remote cameras; or can be as rigorous as having police or security patrol the area. It’s also good to check work identification to confirm everybody on-site is part of your crew.
- Immobilize your assets
Vehicles and equipment that cannot be turned on or that are difficult to access will be less of a target. Remember, thieves want a quick in and out. Here are a few tips: Lock the keys on or offsite, install vehicle ignition locks, place smaller equipment between larger pieces and use equipment features such as hydro locks to keep assets from being moved.
- Invest in a technology solution
It’s important to have as many layers of security as possible. Telematics raises the visibility of your construction fleet from map visualizations to real-time exception alerts. This information can help prevent a possible theft, and also help locate assets after they have been taken.
Don’t Be Vulnerable
According to the NICB report on heavy equipment theft, only 23 percent of construction assets stolen in 2014 were recovered. Don’t let your job site or rental lot be an easy target. Update processes, secure your location(s) and implement technology to raise the visibility of your fleet.
To provide you with even more safety and security information, we will be releasing our 2016 LoJack Construction Equipment Theft Study later this month. Check back soon!
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