July 12, 2024

Plant and machinery theft continues to rise – a year after biggest spike ever

SMEs most at risk according to industry experts

While the UK construction sector has been one of lesser impacted industries in the pandemic, it is being hit by another ever-growing malaise – theft of plant machinery is at an all-time high according to new research.

Since shocking statistics revealed that plant and tool theft increased by 50% in the first few months of the pandemic shut down periods1, according to leading GPS vehicle tracker installer Trackershop construction businesses are continuing to face increased levels of plant and machinery theft; and more businesses are now taking matters into their own hands to stop the thieves in their tracks by installing state-of-the-art tracker technology.

Faced with shocking figures which show that on average less than 10% of plant machinery is ever recovered (if not fitted with a tracker)2, and with statistics showing thefts are on the rise, Trackershop-uk.com has seen enquiries rise by 80% over the past 12 months3.

In a further survey by the company, more than three-quarters of Trackershop customers said that they think machinery theft is more of a threat now than before the pandemic, and two out of three say the problem is showing no sign of decline. According to Trackershop owner Shaun Carse, this is forcing plant owners into safeguarding their equipment with sophisticated trackers rather than relying on law enforcement or other previously used security measures, which are not proving effective.

He commented: “Plant machinery theft has always been a huge issue for the construction industry, with some reports claiming more than £400 million worth of machinery is stolen in the UK every year. But the events of the past 12 months have created a perfect storm – giving organised crime gangs more opportunity and impetus to target construction sites, which can often leave themselves vulnerable compare to, say, sports vehicles of the same value.

“Rather than the number of thefts decreasing since lockdown has eased, we are hearing that this continues to be a growing problem and the industry is struggling to protect itself from criminal activity.

“Plant machinery is hugely expensive, easy to sell for profit and, historically, has been difficult to track and recover. Thefts within the sector are seen as a relatively low risk gamble due to the pitifully small percentage of equipment that is ever recovered.

“The Police do a brilliant job in trying to retrieve stolen vehicles and having the correct identifying marks, installing CCTV and tight security are all good measures to reduce loss of equipment, but adding a tracker means there is an immediate response activation – and with advancing technology this is fast becoming the most effective way to combat burglaries of this type.

“Trackers with in-built immobilisation heightens security further than any other safekeeping measure. It enables the customer to immobilise their machinery remotely from their tracking app at any time. They then override it through the same process when they need to use it again. Many customers implement this when they are leaving plant/machinery on-site or in storage unattended. If anyone moves equipment illegally (by lifting onto a flatbed or towing away with the ignition off) site owners receive an instant notification or automated phone call to alert them.

“Thankfully today’s technology means that we can win the war on organised crime gangs targeting the industry, but more still needs to be done to make sure that businesses are not leaving themselves vulnerable to theft.

“Overall, it’s estimated that the UK construction industry loses more than £800 million per year due to machinery theft, taking into account all associated costs. These include the cost of plant replacement, hire of replacement equipment, loss of business and increased insurance premiums.

“While theft has a detrimental effect on all size of business, given the knock on – it’s smaller to medium sized enterprises that face the biggest risk, often leaving them struggling to survive.”

Trackershop customer, a construction and groundworks company based in the South East of England, explains the impact of machinery theft on his business: “We didn’t anticipate how the pandemic would make our plant machinery so vulnerable. On the day that we downed tools and shut our site during the second lockdown, we had a digger stolen. In fact, CCTV later showed that the thieves had entered our site within five minutes of us locking up and leaving- they were clearly waiting in anticipation of us vacating. As this kit did not have trackers installed, we had absolutely no way of recovering them.

“We have, however, had Trackershop trackers in our fleet of vans for over five years now. This is mainly for monitoring from a logistics standpoint during the working day. What has proven to be invaluable is the additional security they bring – as we were recently able to recover two stolen vans instantly, using the live tracking information.

“Based on the success rate and effectiveness of our Trackershop devices used in our vans, we are in the process of rolling out the same trackers across all of our new plant when they arrive next week.

“Plant trackers were just never something that we had considered before now. However, it now seems thieves are making a beeline for diggers and plant in general.

“Due to our success so far, and the overall quality of service we have received from Trackershop, we will feel a lot better about leaving our machinery unattended now with tracking devices installed.”

Shaun continues: “When you consider that plant machinery trackers start at £54.00 with a rolling monthly subscription of less than £10 per month, it is clear why this is fast becoming the go-to security measure of the industry with the potential to save businesses losses that could amount to hundreds of thousands of pounds.”


  1. In April 2020, The CEA (Construction Equipment Association), owners of the CESAR scheme, reported an estimated 50 per cent increase in construction site theft as opportunist thieves took advantage of the sudden closure and scaling back of constructions sites leaving them vulnerable to theft.
  2. Trackershop web enquiries between April 2020 and April 2021
  3. Trackershop customer survey between December 2020 and May 2021