Safe & Secure
Keeping your work truck and equipment from being stolen means having a multi-layered security system, here is what you need to know
By Peter D. DuPre
Whether we like it or not, the trucks and equipment we use everyday for business and personal use are prime targets for thieves.
According to the National Equipment Register (ner.net), which keeps tabs on equipment thefts, hundreds of millions of dollars worth of mobile equipment is stolen from construction sites and farms throughout North America every year. Most of this equipment is never recovered.
And if you take just a minute to think about it, the reasons are obvious: Job trucks, trailers, and equipment are often left unattended at the jobsite or office after hours, when darkness makes theft or vandalism very easy.
Such targets of opportunity are lucrative for the thieves and costly for the contractor. Even a modestly equipped diesel work truck can easily have a $50K price tag. Add in the replacement cost of tools, a trailer, and a compact loader or skid steer (the highest equipment on the current “hit” list) and you’re easily out another $50K.
Sure, most businesses carry insurance to cover losses from theft and vandalism, but it only pays for the loss of the vehicle(s), trailer and equipment.
However, you might not get full replacement value for your loss and you certainly won’t get paid for lost business, time spent with the police and insurance agent, or for the time and out of pocket expenses it will take to replace all that you have lost.
Insurance is an important protection device, but it should be one that is rarely used. It is much better to protect your assets from theft and vandalism by making them unattractive targets. Should the worst happen and your assets are stolen, then a security setup should be in place to track those assets and secure their prompt recovery by law enforcement.
Most of you usually lock your trucks, trailers and equipment when they aren’t being used and park them in secure areas. Some of you even employ alarm systems. But keeping vehicles and equipment safe and secure goes far beyond such basics and, in fact, is a multi-layered process.
Multiple Levels Of Security
The first part of keeping assets protected is to have the right frame of mind.
Many small contracting and landscaping businesses have only couple pickups, which also double as family and recreation transportation. This means that the owner has to be diligent about security 24/7 and the first place to start is with solid record keeping.
Keep accurate inventory records of all vehicles, trailers and equipment. For vehicles this means making a copy of the vehicle registration and insurance, keeping the title locked up in the office and not in the vehicle, logging VIN numbers, taking descriptive notes and taking color photos of the front, sides and rear of the truck(s).
Keep these in a safe or a safe deposit box and give a copy to your insurance agent. An extra copy of important papers to be kept at home is also a good idea.
After that, focus on security beyond locking doors and parking trucks and trailers behind chain-link fences and well-lit, frequently patrolled lots.
Realize that removing ignition keys and locking doors is not enough to keep vehicles safe; a thief can pop an OEM door lock in less than 30 seconds and be driving your truck and trailer away in less than a minute. And hot wiring a piece of equipment can take even less time.
The next step is to use theft deterrents such as battery cut off switches, ignition lockouts, fuel shut-offs, wheel and hitch locks on trailers, audible alarms and vehicle immobilization products.
These devices may not stop your vehicle from being stolen, but will slow the thieves down, which means that they will probably move on to easier targets.
Over the past few years the advent of computer technology, global positioning satellites (GPS) and cell phones has given rise to sophisticated anti-theft systems that can tell you where your vehicle and/or equipment is 24 hours a day, every day.
Thanks to GPS it is now possible to track the location of an asset as often as every three seconds, and if that asset is moved, the tracking software will alert you via an email or cell phone text message so you can alert the local police.
Depending upon the tracking system used, it is possible to activate the security device when the asset is moved beyond a certail area, turn on or turn off the engine, sound the lights and horn, lock and unlock doors, shut off fuel and even perform vehicle diagnostics.
The advantage of most hard-wired systems is that they usually disable the vehicle as well as allow you to track it via GPS technology. On hard-wired alarm and tracking systems, the wiring is hidden in with the vehicle’s wiring harness and sometimes within an armored cable, making them very dependable … as long as the vehicle has battery power.
Unfortunately, these systems are often difficult to install on construction equipment and are completely useless on trailers without an electrical source. They are also dependent on cell phone reception. Poor cell reception, poor security.
Installation on hidden, hard-wired systems can also be also costly if you don’t have the specialized skills needed to to do the job on modern, computer-interfaced automotive machinery.
Trackers like these are simple to install, run on self-contained batteries (up to three months) or other power source, attach via magnets or screw mounting and can easily be moved between vehicles, equipment and trailers. The providers offer a variety of options. You can use them to protect your box trailer during the week and your ATVs on the weekend.
Whether you opt for portable or a hard-wired GPS alarm/tracking system, the features are pretty much the same. Both systems will email or text your when an asset is moved and both will usually let you set up an electronic fenced perimeter and will notify you when that perimeter is violated.
The big difference in systems really comes down to service fees, which can vary widely, and whether or not the unit contacts you directly or through the service provider.
Finally, the advent of cell phone apps is opening up the ways in which GPS tracking systems can be accessed. Blackberry App World has a number of available applications, some of which are free, while some require a modest payment (up to about $15).
Although there are currently no GPS asset tracking apps available for iPhone, but they are being developed and will soon be available. Speak with your equipment supplier about your needs and they will probably develop one for you.
Save On Insurance
Many insurance companies offer substantial discounts on polices for vehicles and equipment that have sophisticated anti-theft devices and GPS tracking systems installed. Discounts may not be offered in all areas or by all insurance carriers, and the amount of discount may differ depending upon your locale; check with your agent to see if you qualify. The following list of insurers were known to offer discounts as of press time:
- AAA Insurance (up to 18%)
- AIG Insurance (up to 15%)
- Allstate Insurance (in CA, TX, NY, FL)
- ALFA Insurance (in AL, up to 10%)
- Farmers Insurance (up to 15%)
- Fireman’s Fund (up to 5%)
- Geico (up to 10%)
- Georgia Farm Bureau Insurance (up to 15%)
- Liberty Mutual (up to 25%)
- Mercury Insurance (up to 30%)
- Nationwide Insurance (in CA, up to 10%)
- Progressive Insurance (up to 15%)
- Safeco Insurance (up to 10%)
- USAA Insurance (up to 33%)
- 21st Century Insurance (up to 15%)
Top Jobsite Equipment Thefts
Although security of jobsite equipment is better than ever, thefts of equipment during after hours are at an all time high because most jobsites sit idle during nighttime hours, the equipment is easy to steal and the rewards, for the thief, are very high. What the two studies show is that no type of construction, landscape, or farm equipment is safe from theft.
The National Equipment Register, an organization that maintains databases of equipment ownership, theft reports, and machine identification characteristics. Their March 2011 Equipment Theft Summary lists the top five types of equipment stolen this past winter in order of theft popularity:
1. Skid Steer Loader/Compact Tracked Loader
2. Utility Cart/Vehicle
3. Backhoe Loader/Tractor (Compact, Utility and Ag)
4. Commercial Mowers
5. Loaders (Articulated, Tracked, Landscape)
Source: National Equipment Register
According to the 10th Annual Construction Equipment Theft Study, popular jobsite equipment is often a theft target because work areas are frequently free of personnel after dark, the ease in which these items can be transported and the high resale the equipment brings on the black market. The top five types of equipment are listed below in order of theft popularity:
- Generators/Air Compressors/Welders
- Backhoe Loaders/Skip Loaders/Wheel Loaders/Track Loaders
- Skid Steers
- Light Utility Vehicles/Work Trucks/Trailers
- Forklifts/Scissor Lifts
Source: Lojack Construction Equipment Theft Study
SECURITY PRODUCT SHOWCASE
DeWalt entered the jobsite security industry about 4 years ago with Mobile Lock, a rechargeable, palm-sized, wireless GPS alarm system that is completely portable and allows you to secure your valuables and monitor them wherever you are. Built-in alarm sensors provide a flexible and customizable security solution while nationwide cellular-assisted GPS technology allows remote monitoring and track valuable assets anytime whether the asset is indoors or out. The MOBILELOCK system is managed and controlled through a secure web page or phone menu system. An internal rechargeable battery has approximately 30 days of power and optional extended run-time kits and permanent power adapters are available. The MSRP for DS500 Mobilelock is $390.00 with a service fee is $19.95/month. To learn more: propickupmag.com/info.
A mobile tracking device, stealthily secured inside a vehicle, the Enfotrace GPS Anti-Theft System enables you to monitor and control many vehicle features, including vehicle locating, vehicle tracking, vehicle history replay, vehicle disabling/enabling (power units only), get GPS mileage. Interface with your vehicle anytime via the Internet, or access reporting and alert functions by email, cell phone or pager. The tracking unit is covert and can be hidden in any equipment. The basic unit has an MSRP of under $368 and one plan offers no monthly service fees. Upgrade plans start at as little as $4 a month, depending upon numbers of vehicles, plan purchased, as so on. To learn more: propickupmag.com/info.
The company that invented the stolen vehicle recovery market more than two decades ago is also the only provider of stolen vehicle recovery systems whose technology is fully integrated with police systems. The patented LoJack Stolen Vehicle Recovery System includes a small Radio-Frequency transceiver hidden in one of 20 places in your vehicle. Each LoJack Stolen Vehicle Recovery System has a unique code that is tied into the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). When a theft is reported to the police, the state’s police crime computer matches the unique LoJack code against the state VIN database. This automatically activates the LoJack Unit in your vehicle, which emits an inaudible signal that can be tracked by the police. Prices start at $695, with free installation and no monthly fees. To learn more: propickupmag.com/info.
The keyed, multi-plate padlock produced by this long established lock company (founded in 1921) is synonymous with security to most Americans, but they also offer combination locks, hasps and hasp locks (great for protecting trailers), electronic locks, vehicle alarms, and their recent anti-lock bumping technology, which makes their BumpstopSecurity lock virtually impossible to open without the correct key. For trailer security, they also offer trailer coupler latch locks, couplers, receiver locks, locking ball mounts, and keyed-alike lock sets. MasterLock is sold through retailers such as Lowes, Home Depot, Ace Hardware, True Value and others. Prices vary depending up lock model purchased and each retailer sets their own prices. To learn more: propickupmag.com/info.
Known for their wheel lug locks for both autos and light trucks, one of their more recent products is a wheel lock that immobilizes a vehicle, trailer, or wheeled equipment. The Car Lock, most commonly referred to as a wheel immobilizer, is the most advanced wheel clamp anti-theft deterrent available. It compliments any anti-theft devices that you might already have. The universal design fits most applications, including motorcycles, trailers, cars, SUV’s and trucks. It is available in two, high-visibility colors, yellow and orange. Fits wheels and tires up to 13 inches wide and it can also be used on trailers and wheeled equipment. MSRP is $349 but the company has been running an Internet special through their website of $299 with free shipping in the continental US. To learn more: propickupmag.com/info.
A division of General Motors, OnStar navigation and safety system is standard on most GM cars and light trucks with a limited time free trial. The system is hard-wired into the vehicle at manufacture and uses GPS technology combined with live person interface to your vehicle. Simply push the OnStar button in your truck and you will be directly connected to an OnStar agent who can supply you with turn-by-turn directions, unlock your car, flash the lights and sound the horn, supply you with roadside assistance, and other services. In addition, if the vehicle is involved in a crash, OnStar alerts emergency personnel and if the vehicle is stolen, GPS tracking assists in its recovery by blocking the ignition, slowing the vehicle down and disabling it, while police are being notified. Plans start at $18.95 per month or $199 per year. To learn more: propickupmag.com/info.
Using solid state technology and a coded key system, Power Lock has no moving parts or battery to wear out, The non-volatile memory remembers your code even when the power is disconnect and the system cannot be overcome by hot-wiring. The unit completely disables the starting system on the vehicle and automatically re-arms 45 seconds after the ignition is turn off. Once installed, the Power Lock is a permanent part of the vehicle’s electrical system and is compatible with other alarms and GPS tracking systems. The company offers a 24-hour toll-free hotline for technical support. The Power Lock Touch Key system has a MSRP of $229.00, plus installation and the Power Lock Hands-Free Transponder system has a MSRP of $269.00, plus installation, but the system can be installed by a competent technician in just a couple of hours. To learn more: propickupmag.com/info.
The Ravelco makes it impossible to start and drive the car away when the small Ravelco plug is removed. The company’s proprietary installation techniques employ a small removable 16-pin male plug that makes the electronic connections that enable your engine to turn on. When the plug is removed from the Ravelco, not even the ignition key can start the vehicle. Ravelco works on all vehicles: gasoline, diesel and hybrid engine; has more than 100,000 different combinations, so there are no master plugs; has unsurpassed reliability with no equipment failures; comes with a lifetime warranty for the original owner. MSRP for most light trucks is $469.95 with F-Series Super Duty and heavy equipment retailing for $499.95. To learn more: propickupmag.com/info.
The SPAL ACJ 1000 is an electronic safety device featuring a personal identification transmitter, so only the owner can use the vehicle. For business use, the vehicle may be used by more than one person as the control unit can accept up to four different personal identification transmitters. Operation of the ACJ-1 system is based on continuous communication, during vehicle use, between the Personal Card and the ACJ-1 unit fitted inside the vehicles, so the driver must carry the card at all times. The vehicle can only move if the ACJ-1 unit correctly receives the encrypted random code transmitted by one of the stored Personal Cards. In the event of the vehicle being stolen, the dialogue between the Personal Card and the control unit is interrupted, causing the alarm signal to trip and the engine to stop. Pricing depends upon number of user cards needed. To learn more: propickupmag.com/info.
For securing open or box trailers Trimax offers a variety of products, including a trailer coupler lock, a wheel lock, and an integrated alarm chain lock. Their TMC10 Trailer Coupler Lock features a hardened, 1/4-chrome-plated steel shackle for maximum security; it fits most existing coupler designs. Weatherproof cap seals out grime and protective rubber bumper prevents noisy rattling. MSRP is under $10. The Ultra-Max 100 Wheel Lock with Disc covers lugs nuts, preventing tire removal and theft. It easily adjusts to fit many different size tires and wheels. Comes with three keys and is available keyed alike and retails for $259.99. Trimax’s 1036 Integrated Alarm Chain Lock features automatic alarm reset, push button activation and weather resistant housing, a 36-inch, 10mm hardened chain links. The unit comes with three keys and batteries. MSRP is $83.99. To learn more: propickupmag.com/info.
Leaders in GPS tracking technology, US Fleet Tracking offers units for companies with one or 100 trucks. Their Asset Tracker AT is hard-wired into the vehicle with no antenna to give it away, has one PTO (power take off). It is weather resistant and offers live GPS tracking at a inexpensive rate. MSRP is $349.95, plus monthly service fee of 29.95 per unit. The company’s Vehicle Tracker VT-X5 is the fastest in the industry with live GPS tracking which features 5- and 10-second updates and is hard-wired to the vehicle, plus it has four PTO input/outputs. You can lock/unlock the doors, enable or disable the starter, and remote start the engine. MSRP is $429, plus monthly of 29.95. They also have the NT, which has a Garmin interface that allows instant communication with your whole fleet at once. MSRP for the NT is $429 w/o the Garmin interface, plus $29.95 per month. With the Garmin interface the NT is $529, plus $39.95 per month. MSRP does not include installation cost. To learn more: propickupmag.com/info.