LoJack Corporation, a company that produces anti-theft technology for private and commercial vehicles, recently introduced the era of the “connected vehicle thief” as part of the National Vehicle Theft Protection Month in July.
Equipment theft on jobsites is one of the most common concerns of construction business owners. Because of this, CBO asked Courtney DeMilio, LoJack’s national vice president of commerical and fleet, about the best methods for preventing equipment theft and securing your jobsite. Commercial theft recovery is DeMilio’s specialty. LoJack releases an educational study each year on what is being stolen, how it is happening and the measures you can take to avoid it.
According to DeMilio, there are two different approaches to how theft happens and why it happens. Certain precautions must be taken when you are not the owner of that equipment, such as equipment rentals or loans. The differences between consumer and commercial vehicle theft are in the type of theft approaches. Often, large groups of equipment are stolen and shipped out of the country, or stolen for parts. Vehicles are often stolen for what is inside the vehicle now, since the interior technology make it worth more. These electronics that help make your life easier can also cause you unneeded grief, though, according to DeMilio.
CBO: Tell us about the “connected vehicle thief” and what he/she means for construction jobsites.
CD: The connected thief uses the technology now available against you. That “Home” button in your GPS system that takes you home every day also leads a connected thief straight to your home. This answer, as it pertains to construction fleets, is slightly different. Fleet owners with massive fleets have very little knowledge of their VIN numbers or serial numbers. Very sophisticated thieves use your own technology against you. One example of this is a rental store. A renter could take a vehicle and switch major components out and send the vehicle back with less value. A connected thief will use technology to rent the vehicle, put a tracking device on it and then return it. When the next innocent renter goes to rent the vehicle, the thief can track it and steal it, leaving the innocent person in trouble.
The new construction vehicles, and instructions that go along with them, are coming straight from the manufacturer. There is a lot of difficulty in maintaining the security of a password or the installation of certain technology. The connected thief will disconnect a connected vehicle. It’s important that you make sure you have some kind of recording feature or a GPS-location product. A thief might know to cut the wire on a machine that came on the equipment, but GPS-location technology is using a different method to run.
CBO: What area of construction experiences the most theft?
CD: There are two answers to this question.
- Geographical—We can determine where most theft will take place by where a housing market is booming. Wherever there is a budding construction market, there will always be theft that follows. Another area to watch is natural disaster. If a hurricane passes through, thieves flock to the area because the equipment there is ripe for the taking. Exposure is always the bottom line in this case.
- Customer type or construction user type—The highest level of theft is with rental companies. It’s common sense—other people are operating their machines. It’s rented, and it’s normal when something isn’t returned on time. Another reason for this is vulnerability. Construction owners simply aren’t buying as much construction equipment as they once did. You want to run your business as efficiently as possible, and that often means renting over buying. With contractors that purchase equipment, we experience more internal theft.
CBO: According to your data, what is your most commonly stolen construction vehicle?
CD: Pick-up trucks on the over-the-road side of construction are stolen the most, by far. For equipment, it’s the skid steers and backhoes.
CBO: What is the most easily preventable risk factor among construction businesses regarding vehicle theft?
CD: There are two different, but easily preventable, factors:
1. Secure the jobsite. Something as simple as fencing makes a big difference in the amount of theft you experience. Having a security guard who checks on the jobsite over the weekends and on holidays is important.
2. Don’t leave vehicles and equipment out. If possible, bring them in and off the street. Lock up equipment. Secure all assets when they are not in use.
According to DeMilio, a lot of what construction owners can do is outside the vehicle or equipment itself. Have police patrol the area. Put up “No Trespassing” signs so people know the area is off limits. In order to successfully keep yourself from being a target, you have to think outside of the vehicle. Additionally, using an anti-theft product can help recover the massive amount of equipment that is stolen each year from construction jobsites.
“Jobsite theft could be a total disaster for your company,” DeMilio said. “But using theft recovery could mean putting your most efficient foot forward to being a well-run business that saves money.”
This is the first in a two-part series from CBO. Part two will feature statistics from LoJack’s recovery data, including the most common brands involved in equipment theft, categories of equipment and locations with the highest occurrence of theft. For more information, visit LoJack.