What do you do when expensive equipment vanishes?
by Jenny Shiner
September 25, 2018

As a contractor, there is no worse feeling than arriving at a jobsite only to realize expensive equipment has vanished. Low recovery rates make stolen equipment a huge financial challenge, and without a source of asset protection or a recovery method, construction businesses are often left asking, “What now?”

According to the National Equipment Register (NER), the No. 1 factor that contributes to the low recovery rate of stolen equipment is “delays in the discovery of thefts and subsequent delays between the time of the occurrence and reporting [to authorities].” That’s why many contractors are turning to GPS tracking technology to enhance their virtual security and surveillance on jobsites, notify management as soon as theft occurs, and provide real-time equipment locations to authorities.

Prime Targets

The NER lists two factors that determine the type of equipment thieves are most likely to take: value and mobility. While value is the primary factor, if the equipment is too large to be moved onto a small trailer, then it’s less likely to be a target. Some heavy equipment pieces that are frequently targeted include backhoe loaders, wheel loaders, skid steers, air compressors, welders and light towers. Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed method of prevention. As long as there is a profit to be made from these assets and limited law enforcement resources that are dedicated to equipment investigations, thieves will attempt to steal. But, as technology advances, contractors can enhance security protocols to help the equipment recovery process.

GPS tracking technology is helping to solve the problem of low recovery rates by providing immediate awareness of theft to contractors and enabling the ability to track the exact whereabouts of the stolen property. By setting up the right alerts and using real-time mapping capabilities, contractors are able to be proactive and work to recover stolen property as soon as possible.

GPS Tracking Alerts

These alerts notify management and drivers of a situation that requires immediate attention. To monitor theft in real time, specific alerts will inform contractors if equipment is moving when or where it shouldn’t be.

  • Odd hours alert—This allows contractors to monitor equipment activity outside working hours. By setting custom times that equipment is not used for work, contractors are able to monitor activity exceptions. For example, a movement alert in the middle of the night is an indication of theft, and a contractor can act right away to increase his chances of recovery.
  • Landmark alert—By creating a geofence around a jobsite, a contractor receives an alert any time equipment leaves. This is beneficial for equipment that should remain on-site. For example, a generator that has left the jobsite when it’s scheduled to be there another month will trigger an alert.

    When theft does occur, contractors can access the equipment’s current location through the GPS system’s mapping tool. Real-time mapping is important because it allows contractors to report the exact location of the stolen equipment to authorities, greatly increasing the chances of recovering stolen equipment.

The Impact

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, losses due to equipment theft in the construction industry varies from $300 million to $1 billion annually. Many construction businesses are, regrettably, part of this statistic, but more and more contractors are managing to recover their equipment or other property with the help of GPS tracking technology.

Culy Contracting, a water and sewer construction business located in Winchester, Indiana, experienced a near-theft of multiple vehicles, trailers and equipment in one incident. According to Stephen Hinkle of Culy, GPS tracking alerted one of his drivers with the real-time locations of multiple assets, which were far from where they were scheduled to be. The company immediately contacted authorities and used GPS tracking data to recover all assets, worth $350,000. “Because of the system, our equipment was back in 24 hours,” said Hinkle. “Without it, the trucks would have been gone.”

As this technology is becoming more commonplace on construction sites, the recovery rates of stolen equipment will increase in coming years. While attempted theft will always continue, contractors can rest assured that their property is much more likely to be returned quickly with the use of GPS tracking technology.