News for Tool Hire, Equipment Hire & Plant Hire and Rental Professionals

Protecting your plant and equipment

2 December 2021

Protecting your plant and equipment

It’s estimated that plant theft costs the construction industry £800mm a year, let alone the man-hours wasted investigating crimes, repairing damage and sorting paperwork. So taking preventative measures is essential, especially at a time of high equipment demand and lengthy lead times for new machines. 

Much good advice on the issue was given during the recent CITS (Combined Industry Theft Solutions) Conference which took place at the JCB World Headquarters in Rocester. 

Describing how thieves operate, DC Chris Piggott of the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service said that several ploys might be used. 

They might place fraudulent hire orders quoting genuine corporate details and authentic letter-headings with convincing invoice numbers. And they might make phone calls from cloned phone numbers to pose as a real customer.

Orders might also include names and details of a genuine employees with a company, perhaps gleaned from social media and the internet. 

DC Piggott described how requests might be made for equipment to be delivered to genuine addresses but out of hours or at weekends to avoid suspicion on site, or in remote areas. The criminals would quickly try to locate any tracking systems and take the machines to a port for shipment overseas. 

“With rising demand, delays in manufacture because of issues like computer ship shortages and increasing second-hand values, that can only grow,” he said. 

So what can be done? 

Iain Anderson, joint managing director of GAP Group who was amongst the conference participants, stressed the need for vigilance. “Thieves typically want to be in and out of a depot quickly, so anything that slows them down and makes them decide to strike an an easier target is worthwhile.” 

He said that 80% of thefts suffered by GAP is from equipment yards and 20% from inside depots. The most desirable items are small machines that could go in the back of a Transit-type vehicle, from hand-held tools like cut-off saws to micro diggers and compact dumpers. 

High-risk items are now kept inside at night where possible and secure compounds have been created within depots to store items like total stations, breakers and other small equipment. 

The hirer's yards have motion activated lighting and CCTV cameras, and perimeter palisade fencing panels have concrete footings for greater strength. Large machines are also placed behind roller shutter doors at night so that, if the premises are ram-raided, the thieves have an extra barrier to contend with and slow them down. 

With the price of fuel at record levels and the phase-out of red diesel for construction applications from next April, the theft of diesel is likely to increase. 

GAP now fits tracking devices to fuel bowsers on sites so that even if they are craned on to a flatbed trailer by thieves they can be traced. 

Seumas Ascott, group security manager at J Murphy and Sons, highlighted other considerations relating to fuel theft, such as environmental issues potentially arising from spillages and expensive damage to machines if criminals try to break into their fuel tanks. 

He said that the dye in red diesel has been an obvious theft deterrent and that its removal would make the more expensive white diesel all too attractive to thieves. 

He added that Murphy is exploring the use of a bespoke marker that could be added to diesel and which would contain details of its source and ownership. This, together with clearly visible signs alerting criminals to the presence of the system, could act as a deterrent. 

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