Preventing Equipment Theft

With the cost of equipment theft reaching between $300 million and $1 billion every year, fleet managers must take theft prevention seriously. Fortunately, crime trends can help fleets gain a greater understanding of the problem — and these simple tips can help fight it.

January 2013, Government Fleet - Feature

by Shelley Mika - Also by this author

At a Glance

Some ways to prevent equipment theft include:

  • Keep good records for all equipment.
  • Pay attention to equipment theft trends.
  • Ensure that sites where vehicles will be left unattended are secured.
  • Move equipment to another area if security isn't possible.

National Insurance Crime Bureau investigators discovered a hoard of heavy equipment in which PIN plates had been altered or removed. Photo courtesy of National Insurance Crime Bureau.
National Insurance Crime Bureau investigators discovered a hoard of heavy equipment in which PIN plates had been altered or removed. Photo courtesy of National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Vehicle theft is a problem well known to drivers and fleets alike, so fleet managers take the necessary precautions: educating drivers on protecting their vehicles, installing security alarms, or employing GPS.

But what about heavy equipment? Some might be surprised to learn theft is a huge problem in the United States. In fact, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) and National Equipment Register (NER), the annual estimates of the cost of equipment theft vary between $300 million and $1 billion annually — with most estimates panning out around the $400 million mark. And every month, nearly 1,000 pieces of commercial equipment are reported stolen to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). With the average value of a stolen piece of equipment estimated to be $22,300, according to the NER and NICB’s 2011 Heavy Equipment Theft Report, the costs add up quickly for fleets.

Huge profits make stealing heavy equipment very attractive. The thieves — and often crime rings — who make stolen heavy equipment their business access jobsites after hours, load equipment onto trailers, then typically do one of three things: resell it to unsuspecting buyers, dismantle the equipment and sell the parts, or illegally export it to other countries.

In the end, fleets pay the price. Not only are there replacement costs to consider, but also loss of productivity. And there is always the possibility that reporters or politicians may look to the theft as an example of poor stewardship of public funding.

“Although not as prevalent as private sector equipment theft, the loss of government fleet equipment can have as great or greater impact to the fleet. In addition to the machine loss, the effect of a missing machine can disrupt a department’s project scheduling, manpower and resource allocation, and even prolong traffic flow disruption,” said David Mossman, senior analyst, National Equipment Register. “Additionally, the interruption of an agency’s response to catastrophes — such as storm water flooding and emergency snow removal — can greatly exacerbate the costs of that catastrophe and create citizen push-back due to delayed response.”

With the problem of equipment theft apparent, it’s important for fleet managers to understand the problem — and take heed of  ways to prevent it.

The Equipment Theft Problem
For those who are skeptical about the severity of the equipment theft problem, consider this: According to statistics from the 2011 Theft Report, on average, equipment is roughly twice as likely to be stolen as it is to be damaged by a natural event. And heavy equipment is roughly five times more likely to be stolen than to be in a collision.  

The high rate of equipment theft exits for several reasons:
● The value of the equipment
● Lack of proper equipment security
● Poor site security
● The ease of selling stolen equipment in the used-equipment market
● Low risk of detection and arrest
● Lenient penalties for thieves who are prosecuted and convicted.


  1. 1. joe burton [ November 14, 2014 @ 04:25AM ]

    this was great. love you all

  2. 2. hugo [ June 21, 2017 @ 07:31AM ]

    Really interesting article !
    Here you can find 10 tips to prevent your construction site :


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