October 15, 2009
By Darren Rodrigues
Sinclair-Cockburn Financial Group

Theft of construction equipment is an ongoing problem. Construction companies and experienced contractors know that heavy equipment is a big target for thieves. It is easy to sell, and has a low recovery rate. Often the stolen items are shipped out of the province, and many times outside Canada.

The cost to replace stolen equipment is not the only consequence of theft. After a theft, contractors may not be able to complete projects without the necessary equipment, and/or held liable if the stolen equipment causes damage to persons or property.

In this article, you will find potential solutions that may work along with your existing loss control practices.

Low cost approaches

These common sense suggestions cost very little, but can be effective. Every operation that uses heavy equipment should employ most of these suggestions:
  • Use Crimestopper decals, available through the Ontario Sewer and Watermain Construction Association (OSWCA). Some criminals are put off by the warning.
  • Maintain accurate inventory records, recording all serial numbers and knowing all the details about each piece of equipment, such as manufacturer, model number, year built and product identification number.
  • Register your equipment with the manufacturer. Call them in case they come across your stolen equipment while doing repairs, or are offered it for sale.
  • When equipment can’t be fenced-in, park it close together, preferably in a circle with smaller equipment in the centre.
  • Chain smaller equipment to larger equipment.
  • Have a welder inscribe your company name on the frame, bucket, boom and other major components.
  • Remove a wheel from stationary equipment and replace it with a fabricated rectangular steel plate. Use locking wheel nuts to keep it in place.
  • Communicate with local law enforcement when starting work at a new location.
  • Find a local 24-hour site, such as a gas station, to park unattended equipment.
  • Change the ignition so that only your key will start the equipment.
  • Develop a security plan that includes keeping your site well lit, controlling access to the site, immobilizing equipment by removing rotors, batteries, etc., and get employees involved and responsible for security.
  • Make one person responsible for signing for key deliveries.

Tougher measures

Some of the tougher, more expensive measures may include:
  • Fence-in your equipment.
  • Use engine immobilizers, so the equipment cannot be moved.
  • Etch all of the major parts with your name and other pertinent information.
  • Use alarm systems.
  • Provide video surveillance.
  • Use tracking systems with devices that have been specifically developed for heavy equipment, such as Pinpoint GPS or Boomerang. According to the OSWCA, the recovery rate for stolen construction equipment without tracking systems is less than 10 per cent.
  • Hire a reliable watchman/guard service.
  • Protect your trailers with high quality anti-theft locks. Ductile cast iron and stainless steel are often used to manufacture the best locks.

To protect your tools, keep them in a locked box situated out of sight, don’t leave tools at the jobsite and use etching on your more valuable tools.

Some suggestions are virtually cost-free, while others may require an investment. However, sometimes a serious problem needs serious solutions.
Darren Rodrigues may be reached at 416-494-9883, ext. 361, or Darren.rodrigues@scfg.ca.