Stolen Equipment & How 90% Is Never Recovered

A study conducted by leading insurer Allianz Cornhill revealed that over £70 million of construction plant, including excavators, compressors and even cranes, are stolen from construction sites annually, despite the fact that machinery theft is down 57% from its peak in 2010.

Lauren·3 min read
Stolen Equipment & How 90% Is Never Recovered

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, something that ABAX customers have previously reported. Low loaders have been cloned in the livery of a hire firm, fitted with false plates and arrived on customer sites to collect the machinery.

More than one-third of construction, engineering, and infrastructure companies have experienced theft of physical and stock assets, including equipment, in the past year, according to the Kroll Global Fraud Report. So why does this problem exist?

Quite simply, the theft of plant and equipment often combines a dangerous mix of plentiful opportunity, low risk and high financial reward. PANIU, The Plant and Agricultural National Intelligence Unit’s latest figures report Mini Excavators as the most stolen type of plant during the last 2 quarters.

More than one-third of construction, engineering, and infrastructure companies have experienced theft of physical and stock assets, including equipment, in the past year.


For obvious logistical reasons, plant and equipment is often left on job sites. Remote sites are a target for thieves, as well as sites with low levels of security and even residential addresses where hire equipment is inadequately stored. VPS reports that 500 machines are stolen from construction and rural sites each month.

There is a long standing practice of leaving keys in or near to machinery that is regularly in use. Thieves familiar with the construction industry, or even familiar with the construction firm or site itself, are wise to these time saving practices and look to capitalise on such lax procedures.

Equipment such as buckets, breakers and generators are regularly left unsecured on locked sites overnight. Although gates are often padlocked securely, easy access can be gained from the site perimeter. Thieves make easy work of moving this more mobile equipment and can easily conceal it in the back of panel vans.

Low Risk – High Reward

The most staggering figure from the Allianz Cornhill report is the fact that less than 10% of stolen plant an equipment is ever removed. With far fewer registration marks and records, machinery, particularly older models can disappear with minimal effort. Identification marks are often ground out and replaced to professional standards and paint jobs or liveries are reworked.

The resale prices for items such as buckets range from a few hundred to a few thousand pounds on auction sites such as eBay. With it being difficult to track such items to their original owner, plant equipment offers a low risk – high reward situation of thieves.

The resale price for stolen excavators can stretch to six figure sums. PANIU have found stolen plant vehicles make their way oversees regularly. For example: an excavator worth £100,000 was stolen from Scotland and located in Northern Ireland the following week.


To find out how to keep your plant equipment and machinery protected, click here.

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