A thief backs his truck up to a trailer that has a piece of equipment sitting on it, attaches the trailer to his truck, and drives off. He pulls away from the store and goes on his way virtually unnoticed. After all, the sight of a wood chipper or Bobcat being hauled down the highway on a trailer is so commonplace that no one questions whether the rightful owner is doing the hauling.
This scenario occurs more often than it should. Worse yet, it not only takes place at night while stores are closed, but also in broad daylight. And it frequently happens to equipment that was presumably secured.
After the above scenario occurred at one rental operation, its owners decided that would be the last piece of equipment ever stolen from their stores. To deter any future thieves, they made two significant changes at their nearly 400 rental center locations. The result? Not a single theft of equipment has taken place in three years.
“When a 36-inch trencher was stolen a few years ago from one of our centers, we knew it was time to make some changes in our security measures,” says Dan McAreavey, product manager for Home Depot Tool Rental for North America. “Even though we always kept our equipment in enclosed storage areas surrounded by fencing, and utilized electronic security systems, we knew there was something more we could do.”
McAreavey was not only concerned about keeping the equipment secured while the stores were closed, but also while units were sitting in front of the stores. Leaving expensive equipment exposed and unenclosed while on display is too tempting for many thieves to pass up … even during the day. That's why McAreavey wanted to find a powerful deterrent.
After an extensive investigation of different products and procedures, McAreavey came up with two changes that have had a profound effect on deterring theft. In fact, since making one change in procedure and adding one anti-theft device, not a single piece of equipment has been stolen from a Home Depot Rental Center. With more than 450 tool rental locations currently open, and another 150 scheduled to open this year, this is an achievement to be proud of.
The minor procedural change, which has had a major impact on preventing theft, involves keeping equipment and trailers separated. “We used to leave the trenchers on the trailers, until we realized we were just inviting trouble by making it a lot easier for someone to steal the equipment,” says McAreavey. “Now, we no longer leave any equipment on trailers.”
It is policy at Home Depot Rental Centers to always separate the two units. McAreavey remarks that this simple procedure makes it a little harder to steal the equipment. When would-be thieves see that they have to load the equipment onto a trailer, which takes extra time, makes more noise and may draw attention to their actions, they decide it's not worth the trouble.
The second change McAreavey made was securing all equipment with tire locks. “Prior to using tire locks, we chained the units to a pole or a grommet in the ground,” McAreavey comments. “This offers a false sense of security. Once a thief hooks onto a piece of equipment and pulls away with a truck, the chain just snaps and the thief is on his way.”
During his research, McAreavey looked at several different types of tire locks, and he had certain criteria in mind that the device must meet. It had to be very simple to use, fairly lightweight and indestructible. He also wanted the tire lock to be a visual deterrent.
“We chose a device called Pit Bull Tire Lock,” states McAreavey. “It is very easy to put on and take off. It attaches in seconds, weighs only 9.5 pounds, and adjusts to all the different wheel widths of the various equipment. To use it you just open the arms, put it in place on the wheel of the equipment, insert the cylinder key lock into one of 12 holes to secure the tire lock around the wheel, turn the key to lock it and you're done.”
According to Ed Wilson, inventor of the Pit Bull Tire Lock, the device consists of a pair of caliper type locking arms engineered with a specialized aluminum alloy designed by his company in cooperation with the Los Alamos National Lab. Inside the arms are 1/2-inch reinforcement steel rods.
“The base of the arms contain a series of holes using the Vernier Scale to allow the greatest possible locking increments,” explains Wilson. “The grip range is from 14 inches [the width of a tractor trailer wheel] to 2 inches [the width of a parking meter, post or bicycle]. A Teflon bearing washer, that never needs lubrication, is housed within the lock.”
McAreavey points out that “the unit itself looks like it is secure — ‘you can't steal me!’ And it is very visible. Anybody looking to remove one of the tire locks will immediately see that they are going to have a fight on their hands.”
The Pit Bull Tire Lock comes in two colors; silver and yellow. The devices cost about $350 each, retail, with wholesale prices and quantity discounts available.
Home Depot Rental Centers use tire locks on all trailered equipment and heavier wheeled equipment when it is off the trailers. “This device allows us to protect our equipment while it is positioned outside in front of our stores for display during the hours we are open,” says McAreavey. “If someone tries to steal a trailer or piece of equipment secured by a tire lock, it will make a tremendous amount of racket and be nearly impossible to tow. This device is definitely a deterrent to theft. We've had nothing stolen with the tire lock on it.”
McAreavey admits, though, “If somebody really wants to steal something, it doesn't matter what you do. Keeping the equipment separate from the trailers and using tire locks, however, has helped us a lot.”
Michael Trunko is a freelance writer.
Protect Your Assets
Theft of heavy construction equipment is a lucrative, though disturbing, growing trend. The National Insurance Crime Bureau estimates that close to $1 billion a year is lost nationwide because of theft of construction equipment and tools.
In an effort to document and develop a better picture of what construction equipment theft looks like, LoJack Corp., Dedham, Mass., compiled statistics from states and communities where construction thefts have occurred, and where police have succeeded in recovering LoJack-equipped construction equipment and vehicles.
During the six-month period from January through June 2001, LoJack tracked recovery reports in nine states where equipment theft was reported and where construction equipment outfitted with LoJack led police to recover stolen goods.
- The most popular equipment with thieves is the most popular on the jobsite. The equipment recovery data illustrated the most popular types of equipment for thieves. Four types of equipment represent 70 percent of the thefts and recoveries. Ranked by frequency of theft:
- Combination backhoe/front end loaders are the most often stolen. These are multipurpose pieces of equipment needed on most job sites. Since they can be used for many different jobs, they are a profitable type of equipment. There is little visual difference between one backhoe to another, and they all share a common key. Thus, they are prime targets for thieves based on the ease of theft and how hard they are to track.
- Compressors are one of two devices second most often stolen. Compressors are a versatile piece of equipment, and the high cost of rental makes them attractive to thieves who are looking to use them on another job or to resell them at below market rates. These pieces of equipment can be easily attached to a trailer hitch and taken from a job site.
- Skid steers tie for the second most often stolen. They are a high demand smaller piece of equipment that is versatile and multifunctional and can be readily moved from job site to job site.
- Generators are the fourth most often stolen. Like compressors, generators are a versatile piece of equipment, have a high cost of rental and are easily attached to any trailer hitch. One difference is that generators are useful in the private as well as the commercial sector. Providing electricity in times of high-energy costs, generators are a prime target for thieves.
- Newer models have greatest incident of theft. Recent model years of construction vehicles and equipment are more often stolen than older equipment. Almost 75 percent of the LoJack recoveries were model years 1998 to 2001.
- Weekends are the most popular time for thieves to strike. Twenty percent of thefts reported are on Monday mornings when workers arrive on the construction site and find that equipment they left parked on Friday afternoon has been stolen. A quiet jobsite with little activity is prime opportunity for theft. Thieves realize that the jobsite won't reopen until Monday, which gives them a head start.
- Professional construction theft rings are emerging. Professional thieves appear to have discovered a lucrative market in construction equipment. Thieves appear to be re-selling the equipment as a whole to unsuspecting contractors or chopping the equipment into pieces for re-sale as parts.
In eight instances, the recovery of the LoJack-equipped construction equipment led police to the discovery and subsequent recovery of even more stolen construction equipment. Specifically, the eight LoJack recoveries lead to the recovery of 23 other pieces of equipment ranging from trailers to a Caterpillar F-12 grader.
- Theft is in those states that are growing rapidly. Equipment theft and recovery was highest in those states where a rapid growth rate has lead to many construction projects. Florida, California, Georgia, Texas and Arizona accounted for 83 percent of the recoveries, while the states of Massachusetts, New York, Michigan, and Connecticut only accounted for 17 percent of the recoveries.
Florida was the most active area for equipment theft and recovery with 34 percent of recoveries. California and Georgia were the second and third most active areas with 17 percent and 12 percent of the recoveries. These Sun Belt states have more ongoing winter construction projects than do the northern and mid-western states, and the data is from the January through June period.
- Theft is localized. Construction theft is a local issue. In 70 percent of the cases, the stolen equipment never left the local area. It was either in storage or in use on a local job site.
Unlike auto theft, which has a higher incidence in major cities around the country, construction theft is not confined to city streets and urban areas. Suburban regions where growth is prevalent and where construction vehicles are at work on active job sites are also risk areas.
- Short recovery times result in minimal damage to equipment. Some 60 percent of the construction equipment with LoJack was recovered in less than three hours after the report to the police. This quick recovery has resulted in a minimal damage rate. The equipment was located within the local area 70 percent of the time.
Information provided by LoJack, Dedham, Mass. This report represents an analysis of six months of construction recovery data (a total of 41 recoveries) by the LoJack Corp.
Pit Bull Tire Lock
The Pit Bull Tire Lock is a streamlined vehicle immobilization and anti-theft device that fits any wheel or rim of any wheel. Made from a specialized aluminum alloy, the lock is extremely durable and easy to use. A cylinder-type key lock is inserted into one of 12 holes to secure the lock around the wheel of a vehicle.
www.tirelock.com • 888-304-LOCK
RS # 401
FleetBoss offers a new affordable GPS fleet management system that allows companies to monitor their service or delivery vehicles. The Boss fleet management system uses individual vehicle units, precision mapping programs and exclusive computer software to monitor vehicle data, including start and stop times, number of stops by address per day, vehicle speed, service equipment used and exact routes traveled.
www.fleetboss.com • 877/265-9559
RS # 402
Transelectric introduces two new ServiceMate plastic housing back-up alarms. The P297 and P2102 have high impact nylon housings and digital circuitry. Available in 97 or 102 decibel models, the alarms are moisture, vibration and shock resistant. The products have 12 to 24 volt operation and 1/2 amp or less current draw.
www.servicemate.com • 800/333-2589
RS # 403
The SleevLock is a lightweight, portable, patented security device designed to immobilize a hydraulic cylinder on most types of construction machinery. It may be used on loader/backhoes, skid steer loaders, crawlers, trenchers, articulated loaders and trailer pintles. The SleevLock anti-theft devices can be keyed all alike, all differently or all differently with a dedicated master key.
www.quiplock.com • 770/329-6282
RS # 404
Komatsu's Komtrax asset monitoring system makes locating, managing and maintaining your machines simple. Through global positioning and communications hardware mounted on your machine, you will be able to view precise location and real time service meter readings through the newly redesigned and secure Komtrax Web site. Komtrax also allows the user to view daily operation maps, get driving directions to the equipment and check on various machine alerts.
www.equipmentcentral.com/technology_solutions/komtrax • 866-513-5778
RS # 405