Equipment theft in the construction industry is a massive problem that costs companies $1 billion annually.
If vital fleet equipment disappears, it’s not just going to cost you money to replace it — it’s also going to throw a wrench in the project plans and make it impossible to meet your deadlines.
So what can business owners do to prevent equipment theft in the construction industry?
Secure Your Job Site
Most equipment theft happens when the site is shut down for the weekend. So if you’re not working against deadlines and maintaining a seven-day workweek, there are bound to be a few days here and there that give thieves the opportunity to make off with your fleet.
Perhaps the most important step here is to secure your job site. Make it more difficult for casual thieves looking for an easy score to make off with anything.
Keep gates and other access points locked when not in use. Light everything up, even on off-days, to ensure there are no shadows to hide in. CCTV and security cameras are also an important investment — partially because their presence often deters thieves, and partially because the evidence they provide makes it easier for law enforcement to recover your stolen property.
Monitor Entries and Exits
Construction sites are usually bustling with people coming and going from sunrise to sunset — or at least from the beginning of the shift until the end. It’s tempting to just open your gates and let people come and go as they need to, but that can create a hole in your security.
Instead, require employees and subcontractors to carry identification at all times. Visitors and delivery drivers should sign in when they arrive and out again when they leave. Keep records of vehicle makes and models as well as license plate numbers. In the event of a theft, all of this information can help law enforcement track down the thieves.
Hire Licensed Security
You can usually find someone willing to take an extra dollar an hour to sit on your construction site and monitor security feeds. But if you’re concerned with preventing equipment theft, it’s worth it to invest in licensed security to monitor your site.
Keep in mind that these are big-ticket items you’re trying to protect. The average piece of stolen equipment costs $17,000 to replace, meaning it’s quite the expense if it can’t be recovered.
Investing in licensed security means you‘ll have trained professionals keeping a close eye on your site. Depending on the site, you may want to consider bringing in security rated to carry weaponry, but that is entirely a personal call.
Mark Your Equipment
If someone makes off with your equipment, chances are good it isn’t a one-time thing. Recovering your construction equipment is the best outcome, but if the police bust a theft ring and find a lot full of stolen equipment, are you going to be able to identify what’s yours?
Less than 25% of construction equipment is recovered once stolen, so adding an identifiable mark to your fleet that is difficult or impossible to remove can increase your chances of recovery.
Don’t make your mark obvious. Putting identifiers inside compartments that are only opened during maintenance, under seats, or in other areas that don’t get a lot of attention will increase the likelihood that the thieves won’t find it or be able to obscure it.
Tag Your Gear
People inject microchips into their pets to help them find their way home if they get lost. Why not do the same with your equipment? Tagging each piece of equipment with a GPS tracker can help you locate them if they go missing. It’s also a valuable tool for keeping your fleet running because it can provide accurate, real-time information about usage hours. No more relying on potentially inaccurate information provided by operators.
While this step doesn’t necessarily prevent equipment theft, it can help improve your chances of recovering your missing equipment.
Protect Your Investment
While we might not be able to prevent every case of equipment theft, we can make it more difficult for thieves to make off with your gear. A few simple steps, such as securing your perimeter and recording all visitors entering and exiting the site, can make an enormous difference. Don’t make yourself a target and don’t make it easy for casual thieves to put a huge hole in your wallet by stealing your fleet.
Evelyn Long is the editor-in-chief of Renovated, a real estate and construction resource for industry professionals.