Construction Equipment Theft Protection

Construction Equipment Theft Protection

The construction industry can generate tons of revenue for local, state, and national economies. Unfortunately, construction equipment theft can also generate revenue for individual criminals and organized crime. By some estimates, construction equipment theft costs the construction industry $1 billion per year.1

Fortunately, you don’t have to watch your construction equipment vanish like a bag of misplaced nails: You can take steps to prevent construction equipment theft. Whether you’re working with hammers or multi-ton forklifts, we’ll show you what you can do to keep your machinery secure.

What is Construction Equipment Theft?

Before diving into construction equipment theft protection, let’s take a closer look at this common form of crime.

In short, construction equipment theft occurs when individuals and organized crime rings steal construction equipment from job sites and warehouses. Construction equipment can be expensive—some excavators and wheel loaders cost as much as $500,000.2 

As a result, many criminals are willing to risk jail time to steal valuable construction equipment for resale at auctions and on the black market. 

Who Commits Construction Equipment Theft?

As stated above, two primary criminal groups commit most construction equipment thefts: individuals and organized crime rings. Here’s a breakdown of each group:3

  • Individuals – Individual thieves commit many construction equipment thefts. Given the size of most construction equipment, individual thieves typically steal smaller equipment. These thieves may include your employees or outside criminals.
  • Organized crime rings – In recent years, organized crime has increasingly focused on construction equipment theft. Construction equipment can net serious profits on the black market. Organized crime rings tend to be professional, highly organized groups. Consequently, many organized crime rings pull off large jobs, stealing highly-valuable equipment.

In addition to robbery size, the resale method tends to separate individuals from organized crime rings. 

Whereas individuals often resell stolen construction equipment without dismantling the machinery, organized crime rings tend to dismantle the equipment, selling the machinery piece-by-piece.3

Where Does Most Construction Equipment Theft Occur?

While construction equipment theft in the United States can occur anywhere, ten states see the bulk of construction equipment thefts. These states include:3

  • California
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • North Carolina
  • Missouri
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas

Which Equipment Is the Most Stolen?

Although many professional crime rings are capable of stealing heavier more expensive items like cranes and excavators, the majority of stolen equipment consists of:3

  • Riding mowers
  • Loaders
  • Tractors
  • Generators
  • Compressors

These machines tend to be valuable and relatively easy to move. Furthermore, unlike cranes, these equipment have few identifying characteristics. As a result, criminals can resell these pieces without authorities knowing they were stolen.

Construction equipment’s lack of identifying characteristics also results in low recovery rates. In 2008, for instance, authorities recovered only 21 percent of stolen construction equipment.

Factors That Affect Construction Equipment Theft

Criminals gravitate toward construction equipment theft for several reasons. The most prominent reasons include:

  • The construction industry’s makeup – Some industries are more susceptible to equipment thefts than others. The construction industry is one such industry. In short, a construction site tends to be dimly lit at night. Furthermore, many contractors fail to keep precise inventories of what they own. Finally, many machines don’t have proper identification numbers, as titling and registration aren’t required.
  • Supply and demand – The demand for construction equipment is typically very high, even in relatively weak economic periods. As a result, many contractors are always on the lookout for inexpensive parts and machines. The need for equipment is especially high in poorer countries that lack the right equipment for their construction projects.
  • Lack of oversight and enforcement – Many local and national law enforcement agencies simply don’t have the time and resources to recover every piece of stolen property. Furthermore, a delay often exists between the initial reporting of stolen equipment and its discovery.

The good news is that even with these factors, you can still minimize construction equipment theft. Let’s take a closer look at the measures you can take to increase your equipment theft protection.

Ways to Protect Your Construction Equipment

Once you understand the factors that contribute to construction equipment theft, you’ll be better able to correct job site work conditions that can lead to theft. 

To this extent, here are four ways you can help protect your heavy equipment.

#1 Proper Inventory Control

Inventory control refers to the process by which you and your employees keep an accurate record of the products and equipment that you own. Without proper inventory control, you likely won’t know what you own. Furthermore, you may not know where you’ve stored your equipment.

To strengthen your inventory control procedures, develop a system that records the following:3

  • Equipment information – Although your machines may lack vehicle identification numbers, they likely have equipment model numbers. Record these numbers. You might also record identifying characteristics of each machine. For instance, you might note a chip in the paint of your blue excavator. Finally, jot down important machine information, such as the date of purchase and warranties.
  • Location – If you have equipment at multiple job sites, note each piece’s location. Similarly, if you store equipment in warehouses, record each machine’s exact position.
  • Photographs – Photographs can help you keep track of your machines. That’s because visuals can help us further identify equipment. Furthermore, updated photographs can help authorities locate stolen property.

Additionally, each time an employee uses a machine at a job site, record the date and location of use. Be sure to note when the employee returns the machine as well.

#2 Increased Security 

Most contractors leave most heavy equipment at job sites due to gas, transportation, and energy costs. As a result, increasing the construction security at these job sites can help reduce equipment theft. 

That said, your level of security depends on the size of the job site and whether you own the area. For larger job sites, securing individual machines may be more cost-effective than securing the entire perimeter.

Nevertheless, let’s look at the two most common ways to increase job site security:3

  • Whole site security – If you own the entire job site or occupy a portion of a smaller job site, you may be able to implement whole site security for equipment and crowd safety. These measures include temporary fencing, proper lighting, police patrols, and closed-circuit television. 
  • Individual equipment security – Securing individual equipment often means outfitting large equipment with locks. The best locks consist of “high-security locks.” These locks typically feature pick-resistant technologies and individualized keys. Additionally, you may consider adding wheel locks and alarm systems to your machines.

While both security types can work depending on your job site’s specifics, implementing both security measures may be the best approach. 

Fortunately, this doesn’t mean you have to spend the equivalent of a crane on security. That’s because some construction site service companies allow you to rent fences and barricades. Furthermore, you can rent diesel-powered light towers to illuminate your equipment at night.

#3 Equipment Monitoring and Tracking

Similar to inventory control, equipment monitoring and tracking help you keep an eye on your equipment at all times. However, this method specifically relies on tracking devices to keep your equipment secure. This technology includes:3

  • Alert systems – Alert systems can help authorities locate stolen equipment. Once a piece of equipment goes missing, these systems are automatically activated.
  • Global positioning systems (GPS) – People have long valued GPS for its directional abilities. GPS can also help you monitor and track your construction equipment. Some GPS even provides “geofencing.” Geofencing refers to the process by which a piece of equipment automatically shuts down if it leaves a designated area.

For further equipment monitoring and tracking, you might also consider registering your equipment with the National Equipment Register. Once you register your equipment with the NER, the NER sends you a decal to place on your machines. This identifying mark functions as another security measure.

#4 Trained Staff

In most cases, your machines are only as good as the people trained to operate them. Consequently, training your employees in security protocols can help you keep your equipment secure. This training typically involves employees:3

  • Parking machines in well-lit areas overnight
  • Turning off machines and storing keys in secure areas
  • Utilizing proper inventory control techniques
  • Following written security guidelines

When training your employees in security protocols, it may be helpful to reinforce concepts throughout the year. This means discussing security measures during orientations, onboarding, and monthly or biannual workshops.

Finally, have your employees run through a detailed checklist at the end of the day. This checklist can include:

  • Equipment location – Have you stored every piece of equipment in the proper location? Have you activated geofencing technologies and diesel-powered lighting?
  • Keys and locks Have you properly secured all equipment keys? Have you checked physical and digital locks?
  • Inventory control – Have you checked your inventory? Has every piece of equipment been returned? Have you updated your inventory control system?

Help Prevent Construction Equipment Theft with ASAP Marketplace

Construction equipment theft can do more than delay a construction project’s completion. It can result in significant revenue losses. Luckily, you can help minimize construction equipment theft by implementing theft protection protocols, including retail remodels.

To this extent, securing your perimeter and equipment is a fantastic first step.

Our barriers, fences, and diesel-powered lights can help you protect your construction equipment. Once you’re finished at your job site, we can arrange for the removal of these protective pieces.

Welcome to ASAP Marketplace, your home for the best in theft protection equipment.



  1. Concrete Construction. The Real Cost of Construction Jobsite Theft.
  2. Balboa Capital. The Cost of Construction Equipment.
  3. The Hartford. Tips to Help Keep Your Costly Equipment Safely On-Site and at Work.