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How to Safeguard Contractors’ Tools and Equipment from Theft

In the U.S. alone, contractors lose about $1 billion each year due to heavy equipment and tool theft. If you’ve already been a victim, you’re not alone. In fact, 70% of respondents in an Equipment World survey said they had suffered equipment theft, and theft now accounts for significantly more financial loss than collision, fire and vandalism combined. What makes this statistic even worse is that the odds are slim you’ll ever get back your stolen items. 

The value and mobility of tools and equipment, along with the type and brand, are the key factors in susceptibility to theft. For example, a skid steer is twice as likely to be stolen as a backhoe and three times as vulnerable as an excavator, and John Deere equipment is three times more likely to be stolen than a Bobcat and four times more likely to be taken than a Caterpillar, according to National Equipment Register’s NER Theft Reports.

Construction Equipment Theft Prevention

There are some affordable business practices that can help protect your job site and storage locations from serious financial damage – the average cost of a stolen piece of equipment is over $46,000 – and save your company from lost hours on the job.

Here are some ways to help cost-effectively prevent theft:

  • Surround your job site with an enclosure and keep it locked even during active hours. Fences should be eight feet or higher, and although razor wire can be unattractive, it may prompt a thief to go somewhere else.
  • Fully illuminate your shop buildings and equipment yard at night. Consider switching to LED bulbs, which are not only more efficient but cast brighter light. Make sure there are no shadows where thieves can easily hide. 
  • Regularly test existing alarms or cameras to keep them in working order.
  • Park your equipment nose to tail so thieves can’t easily move one machine without moving another.
  • Never leave equipment sitting on a trailer for easier transport by the thief.
  • Secure what you can in a locked building. 

Enable Contractor Equipment Recovery

Some other great investments of time and money include:

  • Registering your equipment with the National Equipment Register (NER) 
  • Training employees and contractors to prevent theft and posting best-practices reminders on equipment, storage units and other visible locations
  • Rewarding positive behaviors that reduce or eliminate theft 
  • Reviewing NER’s Loss and Security Techniques for Equipment Owners, which provides additional tips for effective site security
  • Signing up for NER regional theft alerts
  • Installing new technology
    • Telematics act like “black boxes” and can be programmed to alert you when equipment moves outside of a designated area. Telematics are offered as a standard element or upgrade on many new pieces of equipment but can also be added on an after-market basis.
    • You can also attach simpler GPS tracking devices to mobile equipment and large tools.
  • Ordering new equipment with keypad-only access, instead of physical keys
  • Painting an identifier number on the exterior roof of mobile equipment


If You Experience a Theft 

Given that only about 20% of contractor equipment is recovered after theft, you should consider more  complete business insurance designed for contractors’ specific risks, including tools and equipment insurance. In addition to important commercial insurance policies such as general business liability, workers’ compensation, cybersecurity and commercial auto coverage, you should consider the following policies to help protect your valuable equipment and tools:

  • Property insurance, which helps insure your buildings and their contents
  • Builders’ risk and installation floater insurance, which helps cover your projects and equipment
    • Generally, builders’ risk coverage is intended to cover your project – including materials, supplies and equipment – while at a job site and is typically applicable for larger projects, such as new construction and remodels.
    • An installation floater is suitable for most contractors engaged in specific installation tasks, such as plumbing, electrical, and HVAC, and can include equipment in transit.

You may also wish to carry contractors insurance that includes coverage for employees’ tools. That is an addition your agent can help you place in your policy.

A Westfield insurance agent can help you review the types of commercial insurance you need based on the kinds of jobs you take and whether you’re a small artisan contractor or a midsize or large contractor. On top of solid coverage, another great reason to get award-winning contractors’ business protection from Westfield is our claims team – responsive people who help you through the process of filing a claim. We understand time is money, and after 175 years in the insurance business, we know how to work quickly to help develop an accurate resolution based on your policy’s coverage. Contact a Westfield insurance agent today to discover your options for contractors business insurance.