Theft, a huge issue for rental operators, seems to be on the upswing. That is why rental operators need to be even more vigilant, says ARA Insurance preferred agent Emmett Long, rental risk adviser, Jowers-Sklar Insurance Agency, Rome, Ga.
“This has been the worst year for equipment theft that I can remember in a very long time,” he says. “We have seen an uptick of theft by conversion at rental businesses. Because equipment is harder to get with the global shortages and all the logistic challenges, when a theft does occur, it hurts rental stores more.”
Long talks continually with his clients about how to protect themselves.
“I encourage folks to have GPS on every unit they can, particularly on the more commonly stolen items, such as skid steers, mini skid steers, mini excavators and even trailers,” he says. “GPS is so much more affordable now.”
Having a strong rental contract and registering your equipment on the National Equipment Register (NER) HelpTech database also are key, Long notes.
“The American Rental Association (ARA) allows members to register up to 1,000 pieces of off-road, mobile equipment for free. ARA Insurance also waives the deductible up to $10,000 if registered equipment with NER is stolen. Both are great member benefits,” he says.
Also crucial is “training and empowering counter staff to have their antennae up and know it is OK to say no,” Long says. “Rental stores are in the business of helping people, but they also have to be on the lookout for ways people will take advantage of them.”
That means training on the “red flags,” such as:
Is the renter from out of town? “You have to ask why did that individual pass four other rental stores to go to yours? Is there a legitimate reason why they are there?” Long says.
Are they asking for equipment that doesn’t seem to match the job? “Instead of just taking orders, ask them about the job. If they can’t really tell you about it or the equipment doesn’t match the project they are doing, this is a flag,” he says.
Are they showing up in a rented truck? “If they are, I strongly suggest that rental operators do not even rent to them. They have possibly stolen that truck. Then they rent your equipment and it is almost untraceable to the renter,” Long says.
Are they acting strangely, trying to hide their face or car license? “Just having good security and cameras is important. If you have a camera that shows their face and a monitor behind your desk where they can see that they are on camera and they walk in and pull their hat down or pull their hoodie up, that is a concern. Or, if they don’t want to pull all the way on your lot because they don’t want the cameras to see their license plate, that is another one,” he says
Are they arriving when the store is the busiest? “Many times thieves will stop in when the store is slammed, particularly first thing in the morning or at the end of the day when individuals are trying to shut down. These are red flags,” Long says.
Conversion is not the only theft, though. There also are “smash-and-grab” and job-site thefts.
“Make sure your store is physically secure, especially if you are going to be closed around the holidays. Pull heavy equipment in front of gates so someone can’t just run through it with a truck. Bring equipment inside. Walk around your property. Come
back to your store at night to see if you have any dark spots in your yard. Ensure your cameras and lights cover everything. And if you have equipment out on rent, let your contractors know that they are responsible for securing your equipment on the job site,” Long says.
Long stresses vigilance. “We hope theft does not occur, but if it does, report it to the police, to NER and to ARA Insurance,” he says.