Your Heavy Equipment is Vulnerable

April 23rd, 2019 | By John Smith
Your Heavy Equipment is Vulnerable

Your heavy equipment is more vulnerable than you may think.

With its sprawling acreage and continuous development, Texas is an easy and convenient target for heavy equipment theft. According to LoJack’s annual construction equipment theft study, Texas is continually among the top three states for heavy equipment theft every year, along with California and Florida.

The National Equipment Register estimates that construction companies lose anywhere from 300 million to one billion dollars to heavy equipment theft per year. The data below, from the NER’s 2016 Equipment Theft Report, shows that the risk of theft on a construction site far outweighs the risk of vandalism, fire damage, collision, and other dangers.

There are multiple reasons why heavy equipment theft is such a popular crime, but with some preventative measures, the risk can be greatly reduced.

The Problem: Heavy equipment like backhoes, skid steer loaders, generators, and cement mixers are not universally titled and registered as automobiles are. This makes it more difficult for police to positively identify stolen machines.

The Fix: Though heavy equipment isn’t automatically registered as automobiles are, you can voluntarily register your equipment with national databases like the National Equipment Register or the Heavy Equipment Registration. These databases can be accessed by police so that your equipment can be identified no matter where it’s sold.

The Problem: Heavy equipment is not thoroughly documented on site. Often, police are unable to gather equipment serial numbers because site managers simply have not documented them. 

The Fix: Make sure all heavy equipment serial numbers are documented, including those of rented equipment. Consider adding other identifiers, such as an additional serial number plate in a hidden area on the machine. Keep photos of the equipment on file and update them periodically.

The Problem: Heavy equipment is often easy to steal. Some popular manufacturers have entire lines of products that can be started with one key. Criminals can easily purchase such a key and have their pick of any number of pieces of equipment in their area. Furthermore, schedules for delivery, maintenance and pickup of rented machines are often unclear, making it easy for thieves to remove heavy equipment without looking suspicious. 

The Fix: It’s difficult to install new single-key ignitions on machines, but there are simpler ways to immobilize heavy equipment when it is not in use. Each machine can be outfitted with equipment locks that make it impossible to operate, steer, or start. Always know what machines should be on site and when. Make sure no equipment is delivered or removed without thorough planning and documentation.

The Problem: Stolen heavy equipment is easy to sell. At resell yards or auction companies, buyers might only check with their local police to make sure the serial number on a machine is not linked to any reports of theft, or is not listed as stolen in a national register. Because of the lack of documentation mentioned previously, these serial numbers or the theft itself might never have been reported to police. This makes the selling of stolen equipment a relatively low-risk, high-reward venture, especially if the equipment has been moved to another city or state. 

The Fix: Registering your machines and having clear documentation and frequent checks of machines present on site should protect your heavy equipment from being resold. Report theft quickly, and thoroughly, making sure police have clear ways to identify your stolen equipment.


The cost of stolen equipment goes far beyond the cost of replacement. Missing machinery can cause cascading delays that push back your schedule by months, requiring added man hours, utility payments, and rental costs. Some simple precautions and administrative measures can ensure that theft is prevented or at least, that your equipment is among the approximately 10% of stolen goods returned to construction sites.

SentriForce can help ensure that theft doesn’t occur in the first place. Our RAPTOR systems come with high-definition pan-tilt-zoom cameras with remote access via mobile app, and in-house live monitoring. Unauthorized site access during monitored hours triggers our professional review team to activate powerful red and blue strobe lights that let potential criminals know they are being watched, and continued activity triggers a call to police dispatch. Stealing heavy equipment from construction sites can be easy and profitable but SentriForce makes it difficult, increasing the likelihood that criminals move on to easier targets.

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