Calling Ground Traffic Control – system locates stolen equipment

Feb. 28, 2013

Let this be a warning to thieves – you never know who is watching, or tracking.

On Feb. 6, some thieves thought it would be a good idea to steal a Kubota mini excavator and the Ford F-550 truck and TrailMax tiltbed trailer it was loaded on in Tacoma, WA. They probably thought it was some nice equipment to sell, or maybe even use themselves. The theft is just another in a long line of this type of crime, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau and National Equipment Register annual report. That report found that more than 11,000 thefts of construction and farm equipment occurred in 2011.

Of course, the problem of cargo theft is also a continuing issue for fleets. According to FreightWatch International, there were 940 cargo theft incidents throughout the U.S. in 2012. The organization said, on average 78.3 cargo theft incidents occurred per month in 2012, or 2.6 per day. Of those thefts 760, or 80.9%, were full-truckload or container thefts. The average value per theft incident last year dropped to $174,298, down from a peak of $554,105 in 2009.

In the recent Tacoma incident, those thieves did not know that Elcon Corp. has deployed what many other fleets are also looking at – tracking software.

 “We bought and installed Zonar’s asset tracking system to help us keep track of equipment that goes to many job sites throughout the Pacific Northwest and Alaska,” said Dave Rogers, fleet manager with the Everett, WA, company. 

By using Zonar’s Ground Traffic Control panel, authorities located the $70,000 worth of equipment the next day thanks to a ping back to Elcon’s system. The tracking unit continued sending back periodic messages, Rogers said. As a result, Elcon managers were able to monitor its movement and keep law enforcement agencies aware of its current locations until it was finally recovered in Columbia County, OR. 

Elcon has installed Zonar asset tracking devices on most of its equipment, including trucks, and off-road equipment, and many other items.

“Zonar has worked very well for us in helping us track our equipment,” Rogers said. “Having Zonar installed has been instrumental in helping track and in this case recover equipment. The excavator would likely not have been recovered were it not for the Zonar tracking device we had installed.”

Elcon uses Zonar’s ZTrak system to monitor its varied equipment at job sites throughout the Pacific Northwest. ZTrak provides locations of equipment through cellular and GPS communication. The V3 is Zonar’s next generation GPS tracking and vehicle diagnostics system. The Zonar V3 is simple to install and captures data in five dimensions - latitude, longitude, time, odometer, and fuel consumption. The V3 also transmits fault codes from the vehicle to the maintenance shop for remote diagnostics and efficient service scheduling.

Of course the Zonar system is just one option for fleets. LoJack, which has built its business on finding stolen vehicles, and TomTom have recently teamed up for their own solution, and others are doing the same.

The lesson for any fleet is to be proactive about theft – of equipment and cargo – and that means taking a hard look at tracking systems that do work in recovering stolen items.

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