Heavy equipment theft can cost time as well as money


Take steps to secure heavy equipment that your business depends on.


As a contractor, farmer or business owner, you know that the theft of a piece of your equipment could cause you misery as well as financial loss.

The financial loss goes beyond the replacement cost of the machine; it can mean down time for your business and costly delays in your work schedule. Some expensive equipment can be relatively easy for thieves to remove from work or storage sites and then sell for a substantial amount of money, and tracking the equipment can be difficult.

Heavy equipment is not marked with license plate numbers like cars and trucks, so outward signs of ownership are not as apparent, hindering recovery.

But heavy equipment does have identification numbers  ̶  known as product identification numbers (PINs)  ̶  either on a plate affixed to the machine or stamped on the machine at the time of manufacture. During heavy construction usage and over time, the PIN plates can become loose and fall off, making identification much more difficult. Like road vehicles, the machines do contain other numbers to aid identification, but finding them may require help from a professional familiar with the units.

To best protect your machine, secure the site as well as the machine.

Site security

  • Make sure the area where you store or park your machine is protected
  • Use a lighted area
  • Monitor  equipment using security cameras or security personnel
  • Park the equipment in a way that makes it difficult to move
  • Surround smaller equipment inside a circle of much larger equipment

Machine security

  • Keep an accurate log of your equipment, including descriptions and serial/model numbers; remember to include any accessories or additional implements
  • Take photographs of your equipment
  • Remove circuit breakers or fuses to make the machine inoperable when unattended
  • Install hidden fuel shut-off switches
  • Install hidden electrical/ignition shut-off switches, making the unit inoperable
  • Consider installing a tracking system
  • Use physical lock-out systems or locking sleeves
  • Report a theft to law enforcement as soon as possible, providing identification information

The National Insurance Crime Bureau reports that several factors contribute to a low recovery rate for stolen equipment:

  1. Delays in discovery and reporting of theft
  2. Inaccurate or nonexistent owner records
  3. Lack of pre-purchase screening of used equipment to confirm legal ownership
  4. Limited law enforcement resources dedicated to equipment investigations
  5. Complexities in equipment numbering systems
  6. Limited or inaccurate equipment information in law enforcement systems
  7. National Crime Information Center reporting errors, in which equipment is erroneously listed in an article file rather than a vehicle file

NICB reports less than 20 percent of equipment reported stolen is recovered. If you suspect a theft has occurred or have questions, call the NICB hotline at 1-800-835-6422 (1-800-TEL-NICB). More information is in published in the organization’s Commercial Heavy Equipment Theft brochure.

You can work with your insurance agent to maintain equipment information. By sharing information with your agent, you may have access to NICB resources and be better prepared to aid recovery in the event of theft.

This loss control information is advisory only. The author assumes no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article.

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