By Richard Harrison, Sales & Marketing Manager, Kubota (UK) Ltd, Construction Equipment Division.
It's a sad fact of everyday life that theft of plant and construction equipment has reached an all-time high. Theft is a major problem for everyone involved in the industry, from major civil engineering companies through to family-run building firms.
Construction sites are proving a magnet for criminals who know that thousands of pounds worth of machinery, tools and equipment are sitting around in a relatively small area and, in their eyes, this property is just waiting to be stolen.
There's a huge demand for used plant and equipment in the UK, Ireland, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia, with evidence even directly linking equipment theft with the funding of terrorist groups.
In its 2006 Equipment Theft Report, the National Plant and Equipment Register (TER) revealed that equipment theft was up in 2005 by 20% in number to 4,324 recorded thefts and by 13% in value to £43 million, the highest it has even been.
The report likens parts of the plant and equipment industry to the Wild West of old, with little regulation, too much cash in hand and very low levels of policing, either by law enforcement or the industries involved. It points out that the recovery rate for stolen plant and equipment is currently less than 5%.
Excavators represent the biggest single category of stolen plant and equipment and, particularly because of their compact size, mini excavators. Excavator theft rose by 14% and accounted for almost half of the total value of plant and equipment stolen in 2005.
The top five police forces reporting equipment theft, by number, were Thames Valley Police (269 thefts), the Metropolitan Police (232), Essex Police (210), Kent Police (196) and Surrey Police (185). Those with the lower level of recorded equipment theft were City of London, Northern, Dumfries & Galloway, Cleveland and Tayside.
In an attempt to try and reverse the rising level of theft, a new plant registration scheme, drawn up the Plant Theft Action Group (PTAG) and led by the Construction Equipment Association, was launched in January 2007 at the Construction Industry Theft Solutions' annual conference.
The PTAG consists of representatives of manufacturers, contractors, plant hire companies, insurance companies, the police authorities, Home Office and other interested parties. Its mission is to promote initiatives to reduce the incidence of theft and improve the detection and recovery of stolen plant.
Whilst there are a number of other marking schemes in existence, this will be the first time that marked equipment will be allocated an alpha numeric code that would be clearly visible, similar to motor vehicle licence plates. Under the voluntary scheme, participating machines will be allocated a five digit Unique Plant certification number which will be carried on prominent tamperproof stickers. These numbers will be recorded on a new National Plant Registration Database operated 24/7 by Datatag ID Ltd. The scheme is expected to 'go live' in Spring 2007.
My company, as the world leader in mini excavators, has made great strides in recent years in helping to reduce theft of our equipment. Amongst measures taken, all Kubota machines are security marked with a 17 digit vehicle identification number and machines, and first owners, are registered with the TER.
In Autumn 2005 we responded positively to market demands by incorporating a complete 'ANTI-THEFT' security system on Kubota minis, the first and still the only one of its kind fitted as standard equipment by an excavator manufacturer. The simple, easy-to-use system is based on an individually programmed key for each machine that replaces the traditional universal starter key. Without it, the machine's fuel, hydraulic and electric systems are totally immobilised and any attempt to start the machine with an un-programmed key activates the system's alarm.
Immobilisation devices have brought about a marked reduction in car thefts since they were first introduced by car makers. It's clear, from figures received from TER and Kubota dealers throughout the UK, that thefts of our excavators are down significantly since we introduced the new 'ANTI-THEFT' security system.
If the worst does happen and a piece of plant is stolen, perhaps lifted up and placed on a low loader without the engine being started, if it's also fitted with a tracking device, the owners should still be able to trace it and report its location to the police.
Concerned manufacturers and industry bodies will continue to do their best to stay ahead of the thieves who look on building sites as rich pickings. We are proud of leading the market with our built-in security device, and welcome the introduction of the new National Plant Registration Database.
Kubota is the European and world leader in mini excavators and provides the largest range of minis available from a single manufacturer. Customers can select from 18 base models, spanning the weight range from 850 kg to 8-tonnes, and including the widest choice of the increasingly popular and extremely compact zero tail swing machines.
Kubota mini excavators have a legendary reputation for quality, performance, reliability and excellent resale values, together with unbeatable support from a nationwide network of specialist dealers, and their versatility makes them the ideal tool for many different applications and end-users, from civil engineering to landscaping and plant hire companies to owner operators.
Kubota machine sales have continued to increase significantly, further boosted by the incorporation of their unique key-based 'ANTI-THEFT' security system as standard equipment.
The 'ANTI-THEFT' system has been enthusiastically received by plant hire companies and end-users alike and has already proven its worth by foiling a number of attempts to steal Kubota machines.
Typical of the industry comments being made, Guy Matthew, Commercial Director of Power Plant Hire Ltd, Halesowen, West Midlands, said: "As a responsible plant hirer we take plant theft very seriously and are pleased to be able to offer our customers a sophisticated and factory-backed anti-theft system as standard."
Similarly, Ken Stewart, Group Procurement Manager for the GAP Group, the UK's largest independent tool and plant hirer, who have purchased approaching 2000 Kubota minis over the past few years, said: "The 'ANTI-THEFT' system now fitted to Kubota machines is great 'added-value' and an effective security device and theft deterrent which is proving extremely popular with our customers."
Further details about the market-leading Kubota mini excavators range and their unique 'ANTI-THEFT' security system, together with a free key ring (whilst stocks last), can be obtained from the Kubota 'ANTI-THEFT' response hotline Tel: 01283 227593. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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