Computerized systems can help keep track of equipment location and use, prevent theft, and even track it if thieves manage to steal.

Leonard Toenjes

Q: We’ve walked onto construction sites in the early morning to see our equipment missing or vandalized by thieves who tried to steal it. I am aware of electronic devices that track equipment, we’ve put up cameras to monitor sites and I am even aware of a database of serial numbers, photographs and reported thefts of equipment. But it seems the thieves are always finding a way when they’re determined. (Why don’t they use that ingenuity on something productive?) What are some recent technology improvements to prevent theft? Where can we turn to get the latest? What do you recommend?

A: There are two ways to approach equipment theft. One method works to track equipment so you can hopefully see where it is after it has left. Another method works to disable the equipment prior to it leaving your work site or yard. Both have aspects that you should consider, looking forward.

There are several systems that provide equipment-tracking capability. In essence, a tracking device is installed on the equipment and linked to a GPS tracking system. These systems have become highly sophisticated and provide detailed location information.

By logging into a secure Website, you can look at a map that shows the location of all of the equipment you have on this system.

In addition to location information, you can track all of the information you noted in your question, plus additional information, including the starting and stopping times of the machine, the hours of use, and service logs that will even send you e-mail alerts that your equipment needs some type of lubrication or other maintenance.

DOTMOBIL ( and HeistProof ( are two examples of this type of system. There are both installation and monthly service fees involved with this set-up, but it doesn’t take long to reap the benefits by knowing where your equipment is at all times.

Stopping theft before it starts is another approach.

HeistProof also offers an interlock system that requires the operator of a piece of equipment to have a small card with an embedded computer chip to start the equipment, similar to the credit-card-sized “key” that hotel doors use. Making a one-time investment to install the interlock system on a piece of equipment assures that the card must be used to operate it.

There is no on-going tracking involved, although it can be added to this system. Cards can be programmed to start either individual pieces of equipment or several machines with one card.

This also provides you with some assurance that only authorized users who can safely operate your equipment are actually in the seat.

Some insurance carriers are beginning to recognize the advantages of this system, and are moving towards discounts on insurance rates for those contractors who use this system. This again is an investment that can pay dividends in terms of lowered theft incidence, safer operations, and, quite probably, reduced insurance premiums.

Computer technology has come a long way in helping to track, monitor, and manage all of your mobile equipment. Both DOTMOBIL and HeistProof are services that I would recommend for your consideration.

Leonard Toenjes is the president of the Associated General Contractors of St. Louis. He can be reached at 314-781-2356 or Visit the organization’s Web site at