Protecting your equipment from theft
By Connie Lannan

Protecting your equipment from theft

Take these prevention measures to ensure the holidays are merry

Preparation can address many issues. For instance, winter weather driving and vehicle safety checks along with vehicle emergency kits can be essential and life-saving. Preventing hypothermia and frostbite on a work site may take planning ahead during weather extremes.

Theft, however, does not take a break during the winter holiday season. Quite the opposite, according to the National Equipment Register (NER).

“Thefts always increase over holiday weekends when normal business operations are disrupted. Annually, thefts wane from Labor Day to mid-November, then increase around Thanksgiving,” says David Grant Mossman, senior analyst, NER, a Verisk business, based in Jersey City, N.J.

It is not just outright theft, either. “Conversion and fraudulent rental have increased in frequency since 2016. Fraudsters are also targeting larger and more expensive machines such as mini loaders and concrete buggies,” he says.

To counteract this trend of break-ins, outright theft, fraud and conversion, rental operators and their employees need to be on-guard and proactive in their theft-prevention measures.

That means taking the time now to address security and any issues that developed during the busy season, Mossman says. For instance:

Walk your facility to identify physical vulnerabilities. “This could be anything from broken fences and unsecured gates to overgrown landscaping that can provide a thief with cover. Adjust and test your lighting and cameras to be certain they operate properly with the changing season, making sure your cameras capture license plates in daylight and twilight,” Mossman says. “Cameras are a deterrent, but ultimately they only give you pictures of your stuff getting stolen. Cameras are not a substitute for effective physical security and implementation of proper security policies to keep thefts from occurring.”

Test your GPS systems. “Make sure devices are operating properly before you need them,” he says. “If you are in high-crime areas — such as Atlanta, Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, South Florida and Los Angeles — consider using redundant GPS on highly targeted machines. Use one standalone system that operates continually and a second pay-as-you-go-type system that can be activated on demand and is not continually transmitting a signal.”

Be sure your rental clients are aware of their responsibility to protect your assets while in their possession. “Make a point of asking what the client is doing to prevent theft at their job sites and how machines will be secured overnight,” Mossman says.

There are other measures rental operators can take to help mitigate the risk as well.

“If your renter is transporting equipment themselves, require the renter to provide their proof of vehicle liability insurance. If they cannot, that could be a red flag that the renter is not on the up-and-up. If the renter is in a rental truck, call that rental operator to confirm there are no issues with the vehicle rental,” he says, adding that perhaps rental operators “need a policy that all renters using a rental truck need management approval before the equipment leaves the yard. This can be a tool to put the brakes on what may or may not be a bad rental that needs closer scrutiny.”

Also, do not assume a renter who claims to work for a company that has a charge account actually works for that company. “Fraudsters have used this tactic since equipment rental started, and yet 2020 was a banner year for successful frauds through impersonation. Call the account holder to verify the rental. Use this slow period to check up on your account holders and ask for a list of authorized renters or establish a policy that you will call to verify all orders over a certain value,” Mossman says.

Gut feelings should not be dismissed, either. “Many fraud victims later have said they had a funny feeling about the transaction. Go with your gut and have a process in place to put the brakes on a transaction if your counter or phone order person gets a bad vibe,” he says.

In addition, don’t hesitate to use GPS. “Don’t wait until the rental is past due. Check the GPS as soon as a renter you have a feeling about leaves the store. If the renter heads out of town in the wrong direction or the GPS gets jammed right away, take action,” he says.

Don’t forget to develop a relationship with your local law enforcement officers. “Be proactive and reach out to law enforcement before you need them,” Mossman says, suggesting that rental operators:

  • Contact your local agency to see if there is a crime-prevention officer who can do a business assessment. This is a good place to start a relationship if you do not have one already.
  • Ask about overtime duty. Having an officer in a marked car at your business for an hour or two randomly throughout the holidays can be a great deterrent and can lead to building a connection with the department.
  • Keep in mind that police are facing many difficulties. Communicate with your local agency to see how you can be supportive before you need them.
  • Contact your county sheriff if local police are not responsive. The sheriff ’s office may be more receptive as their boss is an elected official.

Register your equipment with NER. To help protect those in the equipment and event rental industry, American Rental Association (ARA) members can register up to 1,000 pieces of mobile, off-road equipment with NER’s HELPTech database for free. When companies register their equipment, NER will send theft deterrent warning decals that let potential thieves know the equipment is registered in a searchable, national database.

Participating members may be eligible for a theft-deductible waiver of up to $10,000 through their insurance company

To learn more about ARA and NER’s partnership, visit

“It’s simple and goes a long way. We can work with a lot of the rental management software to extract the right data electronically,” Mossman says.

Communicate with other equipment businesses in your area. “Keep one another informed about suspicious activity or actual crimes. Please report thefts to NER, even if a police report has not been completed yet,” Mossman says. You can visit and click on the pdf link for “Report a theft to NER.”

Don’t put off security. “Refer to the NER Spring Equipment Security Tuneup. It’s a great summary of simple steps to take before the season takes off in the spring. The winter months may be a good time to take a look,” he says.


Connie Lannan

Connie LannanConnie Lannan

Connie Lannan is special projects editor for Rental Management. She helps plan, coordinate, write and edit ARA’s quarterly regional newsletters, In Your Region. She also researches, writes and edits news and feature articles for Rental Management, Rental Pulse, supplements, special reports and other special projects. Outside of work, she loves to bake for others, go for walks with her husband and volunteer for her church and causes she believes in.

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