Back to Basics

While information technology is helping some owners combat the widespread epidemic of equipment theft, the complexity and cost of rewiring vehicles, installing black boxes and maintaining databases make security a hard sell. Several years ago, project managers thought that electronics would dramatically curb theft in construction (ENR 3/13/00 p. 40). But onboard computers and wireless trackers have gained more popularity in the maintenance side of the business. "The good news is that the market is beginning to adopt tracking technology," Shillingford says. "The bad news is that [contractors] are adopting if for a primary purpose other than theft and recovery."

Inspired. Homebuilder Lukich designed a wheel lock after his sister’s car was stolen. (Photos Courtesy of Alpha Industries Inc.)

New mechanical locks that secure container doors, immobilize hydraulic controls and prevent trailer wheels from spinning are the latest response. Several manufacturers are crafting special locks, costing up to $400, specifically for construction equipment. One item was invented by Walter V. Lukich, who designed an 8-lb wheel lock in 1992 after his sister’s car was stolen. He now is CEO of Alpha Industries Inc., Los Angeles, which last year began selling a larger, $139 version that wraps around the wheels of towables and skid-steers.

Lukich draws on his experience as a former real estate developer and homebuilder. "I knew first hand the problems out there," he says. "I’d see pieces of equipment dangling from cranes." The company initially aimed for the passenger car market, but more recently has gained distribution through Ingersoll-Rand and Multiquip dealers.

Another innovator is Bryan Witchey, vice president of the Equipment Lock Co. Inc., Hedgesville, W. Va. The veteran equipment operator is helping his company design control lockouts for the "hottest" machines that disappear from jobsites–towables, skid steers, backhoes and excavators.

Witchey’s product line ranges from $90 to $190 and includes a tubular-steel lock that keeps hydraulic attachments secure. Both Lukich and Witchey say they are having success in international construction markets and overall business is doubling each year.

...for years, with an added bonus of data collection. The price is higher, but the keys do more work. Costing about $350, they record operator run-time data, monitor the dispensing of fuel, limit access to buildings and communicate with enterprise software. "These keys are really cool," says Richard LeFrancois, a maintenance consultant in Morrison, Colo. "Not only is it protecting you from theft, the key gives you ability to see actual usage."