Off-road equipment theft is a persistent problem in the united states. However, there are many precautions that landscape and irrigation equipment owners can take to discourage thieves and improve their chances of getting their equipment back if it is stolen.

Prevention and information are the keys

How many times have you knocked off for the day and left the keys in your trenching or drilling equipment, thinking, “Who would steal it?” Plenty of people would, as recent statistics suggest.

National surveys estimate the annual total cost of stolen equipment in the U.S. ranges from $400 million to $1 billion. In 2011, only 21 percent of that stolen equipment was recovered. In contrast, more than half of stolen automobiles were recovered.

Why? Stolen off-road equipment is difficult to investigate for several reasons. One, the average law-enforcement officer does not have the technical knowledge to investigate equipment suspected as stolen—he doesn’t know a trencher from a skid steer. Also, there is no centralized number system for construction equipment, like the vehicle identification number (VIN) for automobiles, so acquiring information to investigate is not easy.

But it’s getting easier, thanks to organizations like National Equipment Register, Inc. (NER), which was founded in 2001 to increase the recovery rate of stolen equipment. Funded by the insurance industry, NER has partnerships with key industry groups and resources to centralize information on equipment theft and ownership. By calling NER’s 24-hour toll-free number (866-663-7872), officers can request a search of NER’s theft and ownership databases and receive assistance in identifying a piece of equipment. For more information about NER, visit

GPS and other tracking units are also improving the equipment recovery process. These devices emit tracking signals to users and/or law enforcement agencies, allowing for an almost immediate locate and recovery of stolen equipment.

Outfitting equipment with GPS also allows users to better manage a vehicle fleet. The collected data can give detailed information on operating times, speeds, routes traveled, maintenance needs and amount of time spent on location.

What You can do

Preventing theft from occurring, of course, is easier than trying to recover a stolen piece of equipment. Here are some crime-prevention steps you should take with all of your equipment, large or small:

Mark it

Mark your equipment and moveable property. Use an approved identification system, for example:

•Driver’s license number of the principal of the firm preceded by the initials of your state.

•The OAN (owner applied number), a ten-digit code assigned by a law-enforcement agency.

Put numbers in two spots—hidden and obvious—and make a record of these locations.

For machinery with cabs, paint the last six digits of the Product Identification Number (PIN) on the roof.

Paint the roof a distinctive color and inscribe PINs, OANs, or other serial numbers in large, easily visible characters; if it’s more likely to be noticed, it is less likely to be stolen.

Record it

Keep records of the serial numbers on equipment.

Take color photos of your equipment.

Register your equipment with NER or a similar agency.

Protect it. Don’t leave equipment in remote areas.

Inventory equipment frequently. Paint equipment a distinctive color and include your company name and logo.

Install fuel cutoffs, hydraulic bypasses, track locks or alarms.

Improve site security with sturdy fences and gates, “No Trespassing” signs, and good lighting.

Track it

Outfit equipment with GPS devices to speed up the recovery process if stolen.

Manage equipment fleet and operators by monitoring data given by the GPS service.

In case of Theft:

Notify law enforcement immediately.

Notify local equipment dealers.

They can circulate stolen equipment bulletins.

Submit stolen equipment information to NER and other similar sites; these databases provide information to law enforcement nationwide.

What’s Your Risk Factor?

Based on 11,705 theft reports submitted in 2011 to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (most recent statistics available from NER), thefts most often occurred in these ten states, ranked in order: 1-Texas, 2-North Carolina, 3-Florida, 4-California, 5-Georgia, 6-Tennessee, 7-South Carolina, 8-Alabama, 9- Oklahoma, 10- Missouri

Stolen equipment: 2011

Mower (Riding/Garden) 43% Loaders 18% Tractors (Wheeled/Tracked) 13% Fork Lift 3% Excavator 3% Generator/Compressor/Welder 2% Bulldozer 1% Trencher 1% Brush Chipper 1%