National Equipment Register Issues Its 2003 Theft, Recovery Analysis

Thu February 12, 2004 - Northeast Edition

The National Equipment Register (NER) issued its 2003 Equipment Theft Report, which is based on its database of more than 30,000 thefts.

This report is NER’s first national analysis of the theft and recovery of heavy equipment.

The data includes equipment commonly used in construction, highway maintenance, farming, agriculture and forestry.

Similar reports will be published every January to help track trends and utilize the growing volume of data tracked by NER.


Risk management and investigation is not only about the amount of resources available but also how they are directed. The aim of this study is to provide equipment owners, insurance companies and law enforcement with information to focus theft prevention and investigation resources in the most effective manner.

To achieve this, the statistics are put into context through footnotes, analysis and conclusions drawn that relate to both the protection and investigation of heavy equipment.

The report seeks to answer the question: “Who steals how much of what, from where, how, why and where does it go?”


Since 2001 NER has been developing databases for recording heavy equipment theft and ownership data that now provide a new volume and detail of data to analyze. Through NER’s partnership with the Insurance Services Office (ISO) and member insurance companies, NER also is able to provide an analysis of heavy equipment loss trends within the insurance industry.

Some data, such as the underlying reasons for the high level of theft, cannot be gauged statistically, but can be deduced from details of the thousands of theft records received by NER and the resulting contract with theft victims and law enforcement.

NER member companies may request a more detailed breakdown of data.


Although complete statistics do not exist, it is clear from those that do, that equipment theft is a serious problem that is getting worse.

Estimates of the total value of equipment stolen annually range between $300 million and $1 billion. These statistics do not include losses from business interruption such as short-term rental costs, project delay penalties and wasted workforce and management time. By frequency of loss, theft is a greater problem than any other type of equipment risk.

Geographically, equipment theft levels closely follow the amount of equipment in a particular area — the states with the highest volume of construction, maintenance and agriculture have the highest number of thefts.

The type of equipment that is most often stolen closely reflects the overall volume of equipment that is produced although value and ease of transport are important factors. Most thefts are from work sites that may be difficult or impossible to secure.

As little as 10 percent of stolen equipment is recovered. Recovery locations and types of equipment recovered closely mirror locations and types most often stolen.


Equipment owners and insurers should focus risk management efforts on high value equipment that can be easily transported, and note that equipment security and work site security are both important.

Officers investigating theft should focus on the types most often stolen and look for “red flags” such as location, type of transport, missing decals, altered paint and particularly, missing identification plates.

(This article appears courtesy of the National Equipment Register.)

For more information, see the full report in any of CEG’s upcoming regional editions.