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GPS Systems Fly to the Rescue in Equipment Theft Prevention

Stealing heavy construction equipment is big business. It costs the insurance industry $300 million a year, but it takes an even bigger bite out of the construction industry annually. And compared to the 60-percent recovery rate for stolen automobiles, the rate of recovery for construction equipment is relatively low, at 10 to 15 percent.Far

Equipment theft happens first and foremost because machines are difficult to secure. One key fits most makes and models of a type of equipment, and keys are often left in the machines at night. Although skid steers, tractors and backhoes are taken more often than other pieces of equipment because they're easiest to take, cranes and lifting equipment are also vulnerable.

The four top strategies to deal with equipment theft, according to security experts: Improve security for both construction sites and the machines on them; help police identify your equipment; communicate with employees about how to properly secure equipment; and employ technology as a deterrent to theft.

Electronic deterrent systems, such as tracking, monitoring, and immobilization devices are effective, and GPS technologies are quite popular. Security experts advise equipment owners to do their homework. “You've got to know how to use your GPS system” to get the most benefit from your investment, says Jim Acres of the Will County, Ill., sheriff's department.

Here are the basics of several electronic anti-theft devices on the market today.

DPL America's TITAN

The TITAN Equipment Monitoring System from DPL America, San Francisco, Calif., empowers equipment owners to remotely shut down machines, wirelessly locate them at any time via GPS, collect hour meter readings, and track hour based service intervals. Additionally, the Titan flags any asset if it goes in transit during operational hours, which could indicate a daytime theft or unauthorized use. As an enhanced anti-tamper measure, the unit will disable the machine from running if the system is found by a potential thief. For faster recovery, the Titan now includes a "panic mode" feature, which leaves a mapped trail for police to follow to the stolen asset.

To curb theft and unauthorized use, the Titan will set a curfew on any asset to disable it from starting as well as call an infinite number of phones during specific off hours if the machine is moved. Managers access their driver and fleet data from any internet-connected computer and locate their assets in real time on a street level map.

Once installed on a piece of mobile equipment, the unit continuously receives location data from GPS satellites and communicates via continent-wide wireless networks. Data and requests are sent in real-time in a matter of minutes.

Easy-to-use software allows the user to view an infinite archive of reported data, request real-time actions from equipment, and map all equipment down to the street level. The user can manage fleet data with preconfigured reports, in both printable and spreadsheet exportable formats, or be integrated directly into existing business systems. For more information, visit

The Faria WatchDog

A combination of cell phone technology, satellite-based vehicle location tracking, monitoring, emergency notification and communication system, the WatchDog system from the Thomas G. Faria Corp., Uncasville, Conn., can send an automated position and status report to any email address at regularly scheduled intervals or upon request. It can also automatically relay information to the end user or his contact list by email, fax, pager or phone. The Faria WatchDog reports entry violations, geo-fence violations, emergency conditions, and check-engine notifications as they occur via the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) to for action by the user.

The system's geo-fencing feature notifies the user if the piece of equipment moves beyond a specified location by a specific distance defined by the user. Its RS-485 input connects to Faria Bus to monitor the engine and to report engine diagnostic codes to the website. Connecting an optional 2-inch operator interface turns the system on or disables its on-board monitoring functions.

The WatchDog system also reports GSM signal strength and notifies the user that an emergency notification message has been sent and received. All normal mode data is sent with a time stamp at predetermined intervals, providing reports for location, and other monitored functions. The user can download reports from his own Faria WatchDog site via his computer.

For more information, visit


The GlobalTRACS Equipment Management System, from QUALCOMM, headquartered in San Diego, Calif., is designed to automatically monitor equipment usage, location and critical data. The system then converts the data into actionable information for the end user. The integrated, wireless system can also be integrated into the back-office operations to further improve productivity and streamline processes.

The GlobalTracs system provides proactive procedures for protecting, tracking, and recovering equipment. Set in a sealed, cast-aluminum housing, the system's “virtual fences” feature provides boundaries around your equipment that automatically alert you if the equipment is moved. Its curfew security alerts you if the engine is started or the piece of equipment is moved after predefined work hours.

As an equipment management system, GlobalTracs' GPS-based data makes it easier to locate equipment, and includes maps and directions from point-to-point. The system aides in locating equipment for servicing; enables quicker pick up and delivery; and issues alerts when equipment moves outside of established boundaries. It supports more accurate job costing and billings; identifies underutilized equipment so that it can be re-deployed to increase productivity; maximizes equipment uptime and extends equipment life without interrupting construction timetables.

The system issues critical alerts, based on temperatures and pressures, on the engine, transmission, and hydraulics. It enables the end user to reduce inadequate, late, or excessive servicing, and allows him to identify multiple service points scheduled at different intervals.

For more information, visit


Baltimore, Md., industrial power tool manufacturer DeWALT developed the MOBILELOCK GPS locator and anti-theft alarm (DS500), which allows contractors to locate the unit in real time using the internet. A stand-alone, portable, wireless locating and alarm system, MobileLock features a GPS locator that can help users find stolen or lost assets anytime.

Mounted to equipment using integrated heavy-duty magnets or screws, the system features an alarm notification which alerts the user when the protected piece of equipment has been disturbed or if someone tries to remove the MobileLock unit. The locator and alarm comprise a user-friendly, self-installed system that contractors can customize to fit specific applications and security needs. The unit runs off of rechargeable lithium ion batteries and will remain powered for approximately 30 days.

For more information, visit


Lift & Access is part of the Catalyst Communications Network publication family.