August 1, 2016 - Incidents involving the theft of cars, mobile phones, laptops and other such possessions - once exceptionally commonplace - have dropped dramatically in recent years, and yet thefts of aerial lifts and telehandlers are on the rise.
Why is one falling and the other one rising? In recent years manufacturers and insurers have been obliged to take steps to introduce technology to help stop thefts of these high value items, and demand for them on the black market has decreased substantially, also partly due to their proliferation and the fast pace of change. Prior to this years of requests by police forces throughout the western, world asking people to take more care not to leave items hanging around, always lock cars and fit additional security devices etc…were largely unheeded. It was only when manufacturers became involved that anything changed.
Gone are the days when manufacturers showed little to no concern over how easy it was to steal their cars. They are now obliged to fit secure hi-tech locks, increasingly sophisticated alarms, interlocks and tracking devices.
Such devices are available for construction equipment of course, but on balance few rental companies or owners feel that the investment is worthwhile - some aftermarket devices are easily detected and quickly removed and there seems to be a rise in the number of blatantly overt ‘smash & grab’ type raids. In one recent case in the UK a gang hitched their 4x4 up to a perimeter gate with a chain, ripped the gate off its hinges and then proceeded to make off with a trailer lift. A driver sleeping a nearby truck and disturbed by the noise, took a look and was physically threatened if he called the police. A CCTV camera by the gate was taken out of service by the gang before any incriminating evidence was recorded.
Steps can be taken to stop this sort of thing, or at least make it harder for the criminal to get away with it. Manufacturers could do more to install tougher security systems that alert owners when the machine is moved, and then track the machine. This will not stop the most determined villain of course - cars with sophisticated systems do still get taken after all - but increasingly they are found and returned to their owners. But this along with high definition CCTV systems that are well out of reach can make a big difference, and this is already happening in some fleets.
As a further incentive, it would help if insurance companies would provide substantial discounts for owners or machines/fleets that are equipped with suitable deterrents. If part of a full telematics system the equipment can also pay dividends in terms of extra revenue and cost savings. For example charging extra for weekend or two shift working, for call service outs where the customer is clearly to blame, such as not charging overnight or running out of diesel. Measures such as this need to be adopted widely of course – no one wants to be the only supplier who enforces such things. In Germany where their use is more widely adopted, pay back is said to be around three months.
Creating national or international registers of stolen equipment, is another step that can be taken. If all the serial numbers of stolen lifts were logged in such a database, or in each manufacturers database, it would be easy to check if a machine is registered as stolen, such as when it is in for repair, or being sold etc… Used machines would be quickly tracked and also harder to sell.
Maybe this is something for industry associations, such as IPAF, EWPA, AEM etc.. to take up to ensure a co-ordinated effort? Vertikal.net would certainly be willing to assist with such an initiative, theft is a pernicious and costly crime that can, if not stopped, at least substantially reduced.
We appear to be sliding into an era where truth and facts are seen as disruptive irritations, not only by outspoken ‘populist’ politicians, but increasingly of large companies and industry associations.
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February 27, 2017
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