- Get to know the neighbours
- ID your tools – beautify them; uglify them; make them uniquely identifiable
- Secure your vehicle with additional/solid locks
- Keep your tools locked up and out of sight
- Invest in GPS trackers, and/or place motion sensors around your home
- Insure your tools – safeguard your livelihood and cover your losses
For tradespeople, their tools are central to their viability as a service, and in turn their living. They don’t call them ‘tools of the trade’ for nothing. Unfortunately, incidents of tool theft occur all over Australia, and occur far too often. Visit any job site and at least one tradie will have a story about a time they had their tools nicked from the back of their ute or van, swiped on-site, or mistakenly carried off by a contractor. In fact, at least 6 out of 10 tradies have experienced some form of tool theft during their career.
“60% of tradies have experienced some form of tool theft.”
“39% of construction companies suffer from theft or vandalism each year.”
It’s a significant problem in Australia, with annual losses attributed to construction equipment theft estimated at around $650 million.
Unfortunately, tradies make for easy targets to a would-be thief as machinery and tools used on building sites are high-value and readily removable assets – the sort of targets that sit at the top of a thief’s hit list.
For tradies, having their tools pinched is a huge financial blow – often costing thousands of dollars to replace them – and it makes getting on with the job near impossible. There’s also the time it takes having to organise replacement tools, and the delay in being able to complete the client’s job.
“Less than 25% of stolen construction equipment is recovered each year.”
So, to help minimise the chances of your tools getting pinched, we’ve listed our top 5 recommendations to help keep your job site and your tools away from prying eyes and thieving hands.
Get to know the neighbours
Good communication with surrounding residents all throughout the construction process can drastically reduce complaints and subsequent downtime. Also, a neighbour who is engaged with the project is more likely to listen out for and respond to any suspicious behaviour, particularly at night. More friends as neighbours, more witnesses.
Mark / ID your tools
Online marketplaces like Gumtree, eBay and Facebook make it a lot easier these days for thieves to be able to sell stolen goods. Many will go as far as stockpiling stolen goods for several months, let the crime “blow over”, and then list them online or even pawn them in-store.
So, make it harder for thieves to sell them – or even stop them from stealing them in the first place – and uglify / beautify your tools. The easiest way to do this is to mark them with spray paint – a bright orange, a fluorescent green, or a hot pink; whatever colour is going to make your tools unique and easy to identify. Just don't cover up the serial number.
It’s also worth carving your name and number somewhere on the unit to make the tools as distinct as possible. Victoria Police also recommends including your driver’s licence number on there to make it easier to find your address in their system.
“In 2019, there was almost 20,000 reports of stolen tools from cars.”
Secure your vehicle
Most tool thefts occur from vehicles parked outside of a tradie’s home during the evening. Thieves are opportunistic, meaning they’ll drive around the streets looking for utes, vans and trailers that appear to be easy targets, and if your vehicle is sitting out there, it will be a prime target. They may also do a little reconnaissance work and monitor your daily routine to improve their chances, particularly if they believe there’s potential for a big haul.
If thieves can see your equipment is well-secured, they are more likely to move on. So as a minimum, all toolboxes should be properly secured to your vehicle with a chain and/or solid padlock. Also, consider strengthening your toolboxes’ hinges, as well as the locks on the windows of your vehicle’s canopy. These areas are some of the most popular access points for thieves as they can be jimmied relatively quietly and with not much effort.
Also avoid keeping any tools and equipment strapped to your vehicle’s roof overnight, such as ladders. These should ideally be removed and placed inside your home if possible.
The most common ways thieves gain access to tradies’ tools:
- Toolbox padlocks cut
- Toolbox lid forced open
- Broken locks on garage door
- Vehicle windows smashed
- Shipping container broken into
- Trailer broken into with a grinder
- Ute canopy smashed
- Vehicle containing tools stolen
- Trailer containing tools stolen
- Vehicle keys stolen after breaking into house
- Trailer chain cut
- Site office broken into
- Vehicle locks drilled out
Lock up your tools / GPS track your tools
Tools are often stolen from the same vehicle or location more than once. So, a good way of securing your vehicle when it’s parked at home is to install a couple of security cameras or motion sensor cameras to catch any thieves in the act.
There are also GPS tracking options which can quickly and easily track down your tools if they’re stolen. All you need to do is attach the GPS chip to each piece of equipment and install the associated app on your phone to start receiving real-time location updates.
For example, the ‘Milwaukee Tick Tool & Equipment Tracker’, the ‘Tradie Leash’, or the Tile Tracker allow you to track the location of any item in your inventory, regardless of brand or type. And at around $20 per tracker, they’re a steal.
Insure Your Tools
The above simple security measures can only help reduce the likelihood of theft; however, they can’t eliminate the risk entirely. This is where a good tool insurance policy comes in handy, giving you ‘peace of mind’ and the confidence in knowing you’ll be reimbursed in case your tools are stolen or accidentally damaged.
Keep in mind that tool cover should not be viewed as the same as Household Contents Insurance. It is a common mistake that many homeowners and tradies make. Contents insurance usually excludes business equipment and tools, and your current car insurance policy won’t cover them either, even if they’re in the vehicle at the time of the theft.
It’s also important to make sure that any item over $1,500 needs to be individually listed on your policy, along with its true and accurate valuation. If you insure it for less than what it’s worth, an Underinsurance clause can be applied, meaning you’ll only be reimbursed for the value you originally provided, effectively putting you out of pocket.
At the end of the day, insurance is an added safeguard that protects your livelihood and is essentially just another tool of the trade that you shouldn’t leave home without.