Preventing theft of your essential equipment

By |  August 23, 2023
Thieves are capable of moving heavy equipment onto a trailer within minutes for transport to a quick sale. Photo: ablokhin/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Thieves are capable of moving heavy equipment onto a trailer within minutes for transport to a quick sale. Photo: ablokhin/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Demand for construction aggregates is raising prices, just as crime is rising. As price increases eat into profit margins, theft and fraud cost even more.

Theft and fraud have been on the rise in nearly every business sector that touches medium- and heavy-duty vehicles and equipment since 2018. The mining industry suffered some of the largest median losses ($175,000) of all industries examined in a report from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. Additionally, research from SEON shows that crimes in mining are up 30 percent over the past four years.

Combating theft and fraud

Yet another concern is that companies haven’t prioritized efforts to close gaps in their security plans.

It takes minutes to move a bulldozer, excavator or backhoe onto a trailer and then transport it for a quick sale on websites like Craigslist and OfferUp. The impact on a site manager’s bottom line, meanwhile, can be staggering.

The costs are not just in replacing stolen vehicles or equipment. There’s site downtime, time spent on paperwork and increased insurance rates. The National Insurance Crime Bureau estimates that equipment theft costs up to $1 billion each year, with a recovery rate of just 20 percent.

Most thefts occur overnight when jobsites are unmanned and, likely, poorly lit. By the time law enforcement is notified, the equipment and vehicles are long gone.

Criminals are profiting from fraud schemes, too, by switching or cloning PIN and serial numbers. Stolen equipment can then be sold as refurbished for a huge profit.

So, securing assets requires a new level of awareness – both on jobsites and in law enforcement.

Modern solutions

The best way to reduce equipment theft and fraud is to avoid leaving equipment unattended in remote areas.

Unfortunately, that advice is not practical when jobsites are often in some of the nation’s harshest, most isolated locations. The strategy, then, becomes how to improve recovery rates.

Hidden devices such as GPS-enabled asset trackers significantly improve recovery rates. These devices intelligently track vehicles and equipment in real-time.

In one real-world example, Hot Line Construction, a California contractor, had three company trucks stolen from three different jobsites. Replacing just one truck and its equipment would have cost $400,000. But, because the company used a modern method to manage and monitor its fleet, it was able to set up a roadblock to catch the crooks. An asset-tracking tool provided insights to locate the missing trucks while monitoring the rest of the fleet’s whereabouts.

One thing to consider before investing in a new GPS tracking system is to ensure the technology can maintain a connection regardless of location or reception. This is especially important for companies working in underground sites, on rural highways and with reduced cellular reception. Look for solutions with Wi-Fi fallback and cell tower triangulation.

Benefits beyond combating theft

Consider, too, that extreme weather can wreak havoc on jobsites.

In the event of flooding, mudslides, earthquakes or other significant weather events, the last thing organizations want is to have to rely on location estimates to recover their equipment. More advanced GPS solutions can send alerts when a vehicle or an asset has moved without authorization – whether it’s as big as a shipping container or as small as a generator – providing specific location details.

As the cost of lost or stolen equipment becomes more severe, organizations must adapt. Companies are investing more to implement new tracking technologies that help them intelligently monitor assets and ensure their location in the harshest environments.

Nick Grandy is general manager of vocational and industrial services at Zonar.

Related: Zonar ZTrak Asset Tracker

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