The UK construction sector has seen a 50% rise in plant and equipment theft since 2020.

As the industry ground to a halt in the first few months of the pandemic, site shutdowns made crimes easier to commit but thefts have continued apace.

Police figures estimate that £100 million of plant and tools are stolen each year.  

Drones are being used to pinpoint high value items earmarked for a return when the site is vacant and unsecure, but crimes aren’t just associated with diggers and dumpers. 

With technological advances in components and tools, items are more attractive to organised crime groups that have exploited the lack of watermarking or trackers. 

One such criminal gang was recently convicted following the £1.3 million theft of plant and shipping of stolen machinery.

The rising cost of machinery

A recent NFU Mutual survey found that 89% of tradespeople in the UK have been the victim of this type of theft.

A squeezed supply chain and increased demand through projects such as HS2, makes it even more challenging to replace stolen equipment quickly, so the price of second-hand plant has consequently soared.

The result is lost income which cripples a business from performing.  

As many of the stolen items are lightweight and easily carried – such as drills, circular saws and workstations – the actions of a thief will likely be a total loss to the insured.

Often insurers will apply security conditions or parking up conditions to their policies which can be seen as a form of penalising the insured. 

In reality the opposite is often the case – they will lay out a specific way in which items should be secured when not being used, to minimise the risk of them being stolen.

Plant theft in numbers

  • Figures estimate that £100 million of plant and tools are stolen each year
  • c.89% of tradespeople in the UK have been the victim of plant theft
  • A tool is estimated to be stolen from a tradesperson every 17 minutes in England, Wales and Northern Ireland
  • Machinery thefts were up 300% in the first quarter of 2023, with GPS theft alone exceeding £500,000 

Four ways to combat plant theft

As criminals become ever more sophisticated, it is equally important for an insured party to explore new ways to combat it.

Companies like ARMD have started operating in anti-tool theft technology and insurance. Cesar and watermarking companies have become more diverse in what they offer and advancements in additional tech attachments to machinery are made removable or protected, with anti-theft devices.  

  1. Sophisticated criminal gangs may pose as hire companies, so make sure arrangements for the collection of plant hire are clear.
  2. Criminals prey on a lack of supervision on sites, so ensure all documentation is fully checked.
  3. Make sure you have adequate surveillance in place to reduce the likelihood of ‘open door theft’.
  4. Be aware of who is on site at all times, particularly with asset tracking and sensor GPS on items.

New legislation which could deter theft and resale

Action is being taken, although somewhat slowly. New legislation known as The Equipment Theft (prevention) Act 2023 is being put through parliament, which aims to deter theft of equipment and its subsequent resale. 

While it isn’t directly aimed at the construction sector, it is expected to provide some potential uniformity around security and data. Key components of the Act will:

  • Require immobilisers and forensic marking to be fitted as standard to all new ATVs that meet the definition of the Act.
  • Allow the government to record ATV sales. 
  • Define minimum standards for immobilisers, forensic marking and the type of database used.
  • Grant power to extend to other equipment designed or adapted primarily for use in agricultural/commercial settings such as the construction sector.

Insurance cover to keep construction moving

Allianz Insurance can provide contractors with the right insurance covers if an item hired in a plant is stolen. 

An indemnity is given for continuing charges as a result of having to rehire a piece of equipment due to damage or theft, which means that work won’t come to a halt on site and contractors can finish the work they were hired to do.

In addition, a two-year ‘new for old’ extension to the contractor’s plant and equipment policy also offers protection against the depreciation of older plant – typically only one year is offered by insurers. 

This, coupled with a 99% inspection rate of items carried out by Allianz’s surveyors, means that the insured party is kept moving.

Protection in respect of theft and malicious damage should be considered at all times when carrying out work as a tradesperson. Fortunately, there are partner brokers and insurers that can help.

The Bletchley Group is a partner of the National Federation of Builders and works with an extensive network of market-leading insurers, including Allianz.

If you would like to discuss your insurance needs, please call us on 03450 578 160 or email