Most discussions about maintenance for forestry equipment focus on protecting machines from wear and weather, but theft and vandalism are also costly. Equipment lost or out of service due to vandalism or theft can cost tens of thousands of dollars a year and can cause up to $5,000 a day in lost production costs. This protection poses a special problem for loggers because equipment must typically be left unattended at isolated work sites for extended periods.

Here are a few common-sense steps any logger can take to prevent or mitigate losses to thieves or vandals.

  • Deter thieves by permanently marking all equipment with your company name. Engrave saws, tools and other portable equipment to make it easy for law enforcement to identify.
  • When employees leave the work site each evening make sure they use the locks and other security devices built into your equipment. Turn off master switches, remove keys and lock doors. Lock fuel, oil and engine compartments to prevent tampering. Add locks if they did not come installed from the factory.
  • Every morning prior to startup inspect equipment for signs of tampering. Look for contaminants around fuel and fluid fill areas.
  • Make the work site itself as secure as possible. Use private access to sites when possible. Restrict vehicle access overnight by placing a drag of trees across the entrance. For longer-term security, consider using boulders, a temporary dirt berm or a lockable gate to stop traffic. If the site is adjacent to a public road, use terrain or standing trees to hide your equipment.
  • Don’t leave equipment unattended in an unsecured location for long periods. Overnight and on weekends, take service trucks and haul trucks to another secure location. If possible, check on the status of equipment during off days. In high-risk situations, consider having someone stay at the site.

Put Technology To Work

Today’s technology can help, too. Consider using motion-activated cameras to record movement in and out of the work site. Signage on equipment indicating video surveillance can serve as a deterrent to intruders.

Telematics (see “Machine Upkeep,” June 2011) is an especially useful tool in guarding against theft and vandalism. John Deere’s JDLink, for example, is factory-built into all of the company’s current forestry machines. JDLink can provide “curfew” and “geofencing” protection for your equipment, alerting you by text message or e-mail if a machine is turned on or moved outside predefined time or area. In fact, its tracking software has enabled law enforcement to recover stolen equipment in several instances.

JDLink was recently successful at a work site in Miami. The crew arrived one morning to find that one of its four machines had been stolen. Using JDLink, they knew it was stolen at 2 a.m. that morning, and a customer service representative uncovered its whereabouts 45 miles away. Police were called, and the stolen property was recovered and put back into service in under 48 hours.

A single act of theft or vandalism can wipe out the profits from weeks of hard work, so it’s well worth the time and investment to make your equipment as secure as possible.