When Dave Rogers signed up Elcon Corporation for Zonar’s fleet management system to keep tabs on company equipment, he didn’t think he would be using it to track and catch thieves red-handed with $70,000 worth of his company’s equipment in a remote area of northwestern Oregon.
The equipment, a Kubota KX161-3S mini excavator loaded on a TrailMax T-12-T tiltbed trailer and pulled by a 2001 Ford F550 flatbed truck, disappeared from a highway job site in Tacoma, Washington, at around 3 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 6., Rogers said. All of the equipment was recovered by Columbia County Sheriff’s Office deputies on a remote logging road about 40 miles northwest of Portland, Oregon, a little over 24 hours after it was taken. The deputies also took suspects into custody as a result of the equipment recovery.
“We bought and installed Zonar’s asset tracking system to help us keep track of equipment that goes to many job sites throughout the Puget Sound, the Pacific Northwest and up into Alaska,” said Dave Rogers, fleet manager with the Everett, Washington-based civil electrical infrastructure contractor.”
At around 8 a.m. Wednesday, company officials discovered that the missing excavator and truck and trailer hauling it had traveled to Longview, Wash., and the Oregon state border, when the Zonar tracking device sent a ping back to the company through Zonar’s web-based Ground Traffic Control portal. The tracking unit continued sending back periodic messages, Rogers added. As a result, Elcon managers were able to monitor its movement and keep law enforcement agencies aware of its locations until it was finally recovered in Columbia County, Oregon.
Rogers estimates the total value of the equipment at about $70,000, but the extra value of this recovery was the avoidance of a large rental expense to temporarily replace the excavator.
“The excavator was scheduled to work on a highway project starting Tuesday (Feb. 12),” Rogers said. “If we hadn’t been able to recover the excavator, we would have had to rent a replacement for at least several months at considerable expense.
“The suspects who took the equipment damaged the excavator and it will have to go into the shop,” Rogers added. “But that will cost considerably less than what we would have paid to rent a replacement until we could get a new one.”
According to the 2011 Theft Report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau and the National Equipment Register, of the 11,705 theft reports submitted to National Crime Information Center in 2011, 911 of them involved pieces of off-road equipment manufactured by Kubota and 328 involved excavators. And only 21 percent of stolen equipment was recovered in 2011. Annual estimates of the cost of equipment theft range from about $300 million to $1 billion and the average estimated value of a stolen piece of equipment is $22,300.