Online Risk Management

June 1, 2003
Have you ever had a piece of equipment stolen from your rental yard or a customer's jobsite? Chances are, unfortunately, that the answer is yes. Statistics

Have you ever had a piece of equipment stolen from your rental yard or a customer's jobsite? Chances are, unfortunately, that the answer is yes. Statistics reveal that each year millions of dollars in heavy equipment is reported stolen and less than 10 to 15 percent is ever recovered.

National Equipment Register, New York City, offers a theft prevention and recovery service to users of heavy construction equipment through a secure national database of stolen equipment and equipment ownership. Best of all the service can be completely managed online via the company's Web site,

Users can register an equipment fleet, submit a theft report, search their records and manage their fleet all conveniently from the NER homepage. “Once equipment is registered the owner will have password-protected access to the fleet that can be displayed in a number of formats,” says David Shillingford, president.

Registered NER users receive decals to place on their equipment that let would-be thieves know the machine is registered with a theft prevention and recovery service. Even if the decal is removed the equipment is still registered. And if the thief removes the serial number plate the equipment will be much harder to sell, is more likely to attract the attention of police and, in some states, is cause for seizure.

“Even then, other numbers on the equipment can be used to positively identify the equipment,” says Shillingford. “This is a low-tech, low-cost, theft prevention technology that cannot be fully disabled by even the most determined thief.

“A rental business can reduce the cost of replacing stolen equipment and business interruption due to theft by registering its fleet with NER. It may also be possible to reduce the cost of insurance by registering equipment.”

According to Shillingford, insurance companies have indicated that they may offer an incentive to registered users of NER services, but they don't want to spend the time and resources to manage which of their clients are registered. To resolve this problem, NER makes it easy for rental companies to indicate when they register online whether they want their insurance company to be notified that they have done so. Users are simply asked to check a box that says they would like their registration information shared with their insurance company. Among insurers that are considering a discount for participating NER users, three models are being discussed. The insurer may either offer a premium reduction, a reduction of the deductible payment if an item is stolen, or cover the full cost of NER registration for policyholders. Though there are currently no insurance companies offering these incentives, Shillingford is in talks with at least 10 different insurers and expects at least three to come on board in the near future. “Even if no incentives are given,” Shillingford explains, “the reduction in loss will help stabilize premiums.”

The cost of registering with NER varies on a sliding scale from $15 per vehicle per year down to less than $1 per vehicle per year depending on the size of the fleet.

Registered users of the NER registration service can use the site to access individual records within their registered fleet to add component numbers, owner applied numbers and to access specific detail about a machine at any time. Each piece of equipment in a user's fleet has a “report as stolen” link next to it to check if that piece is ever stolen. Once you click on that link you are immediately directed to file the report online, which requires circumstance, time stolen, location stolen from and the local police department the theft was reported to.

In the near future users will be able to search the database prior to purchasing a piece of used equipment to ensure that it has not been stolen, Shillingford says.

NER spent its first year in business building relationships with both insurers and the law enforcement community. As a result, most insurers who underwrite heavy equipment are NER clients and thousands of officers are already using the investigation support service. “The database of stolen equipment now contains more than 26,000 machines and, since operations began in 2001, NER has helped police recover more than $1.5 million of equipment,” says Shillingford.