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Security

Plant Theft costing UK Construction Industry over £800 Million a Year

A review conducted by leading insurer Allianz Cornhill, today reveals that over £70 million of construction plant, including excavators, compressors and even cranes, has been stolen from construction sites in the last year, despite initiatives by the Government to encourage plant manufacturers to improve in-built security features.

It estimates that the UK construction industry is now losing over £800 million a year when other costs associated with plant theft are taken into account. These costs include plant replacement costs, hire of replacement equipment, loss of business and increased insurance premiums. The insurer has also discovered that thieves have become more sophisticated in the methods they employ, even posing as plant manufacturers maintenance workers in order to remove vehicles from site.

The problem, in part, stems from the tight deadlines which many construction projects operate under. Ease of use is of primary importance and the equipment needs to be available for operation immediately, without the need to disable immobilisation systems or search for unique keys. This has led manufacturers to develop plant with a single common key operation system, leaving much equipment on site wide open to thieves who can easily obtain keys. The rate of theft is often made worse by the common practice on building sites of leaving keys somewhere in or near the equipment. Of those pieces of equipment that are locked up, a large majority are secured with a small chain and padlock that are easily removed.

Thieves are also attracted to plant because of the very low recovery rates – less than 10 per cent compared with motor vehicles, which enjoy a recovery rate of around 55-60 per cent. This is because items of plant have few identifying marks that can be readily and easily seen and lack of registration documents mean it is difficult for the police to identify stolen plant and return it to the owner.

In 2000, the Home Office set up the Plant Theft Action Group (PTAG) with the objective of combating plant theft. The group brought together representatives from manufacturers, plant hirers, insurers and the Police. It also includes The National Plant and Equipment Register (TER), a company who operates a national database of owned and stolen plant – something that is essential if recovery rates are to improve. PTAG’s work is starting to make a difference but the construction industry themselves are key to improving theft rates.

Alan Harris, Allianz Cornhill Engineering Director, said:

“The UK construction industry can ill afford to continue to lose equipment to theft at this rate. We knew the problem was bad but had not realised the massive economic impact this must have on the industry. As the commercial and residential property markets slow and the construction industry sees increasing pressure on profits, it cannot sit back and let more and more equipment be snatched from under its nose.

”Construction companies must wake up to the fact that small investments in security and registration with the TER can pay dividends. Money spent on security measures such as physical locking devices, covert identification marking of equipment and effective site and depot security can quickly be recovered through insurance discounts, reduced claims and less downtime. This will mean lower rates of theft and, ultimately, a lower cost to the industry”