The Reason Behind Stolen Forklifts

shutterstock_195446417Turn on the nightly news and you’re unlikely to hear much about stolen forklifts. While they don’t make for the most glamorous of news stories, forklift theft is more common than most people realize. According to the National Equipment Register, more than 330 forklifts are stolen every year in the U.S. Industry experts expect the true rate of forklift theft is much higher.

The financial impact of stolen forklifts is also higher than you might expect. Forklift prices start at around $15,000 for low-end models. They can go up to $100,000 for top-end models. The average forklift costs $30,000 to $45,000. At those prices, even one forklift theft can put a real financial burden on a business.

There are no exact figures on the total cost of forklift theft. But it’s not hard to estimate. Let’s assume an average cost of $30,000 per theft. Then multiply it by 330. This comes to almost $10 million a year for stolen forklifts! It’s easy to see why the industry considers it a serious problem.

Why Stolen Forklifts are a Hot Commodity

Forklifts can bring a good resale price on the used equipment market. This makes them a hot target for those needing a forklift but don’t have the funds to buy a new one. Stolen forklifts are also used  to commit other crimes. In fact, this is the most common reason for forklift theft. Forklifts are often stolen to aid other criminal acts. These include ATM theft, material theft, vault theft, and other crimes that require lifting a large amount of weight.

Some forklifts are stolen by dishonest or disgruntled employees. Most often, forklifts are stolen by those who have no connection to the owners or company. Others have stolen forklifts for the purpose of causing property damage. Some people steal a forklift just for the thrill of taking it on a joyride.

Lax site security also contributes to forklift theft. On large, busy job sites, it can be easy to drive off with a truck without getting noticed. Plus, most who steal a forklift don’t get caught.  Add up all these factors and forklifts can be a tempting target for someone wanting to steal a truck.

Forklift Theft Case Study: The Low Speed Chase

For proof of how common forklift theft really is, look no further than your local news homepage. In Texas, a man was recently apprehended following a low speed chase involving a stolen forklift. Police say they received a call about a suspect driving either a tractor or riding lawnmower down a road in Harris County. When they arrived in the vicinity, they spotted the vehicle in question: a forklift, traveling at 18 miles per hour. Authorities pursued the man taking a joy ride for nearly 20 minutes before apprehending him. It was later discovered that the forklift had been stolen. Thankfully, the lift was returned to its owner. The joy rider was charged with evading authorities.

Recovering Stolen Forklifts

No matter the reason behind the theft, recovering stolen forklifts is a challenge. Often, if a forklift is recovered, it has been severely damaged. This makes it useless, or requires costly repairs. The problem is, very few stolen forklifts are recovered.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) tracks the number of large equipment thefts and their recovery rates each year. In general, large equipment theft recoveries average 21%. For forklifts, it’s a meager 5%. Of the 330 forklifts stolen every year, only 16 are returned to their owners.

Forklift recovery rates are low for many reasons. Owners often don’t report the theft as soon as it occurs. Others don’t report it at all. This gives thieves ample time to unload a stolen truck without getting caught. Companies sometimes don’t keep accurate ownership records. Or they 

give incorrect information to the police. This makes it easier for thieves to sell stolen trucks.

Preventing Forklift Theft

Forklift security starts with maintaining a secure storage area. This includes using video cameras to record everyone who comes and goes. Having an internal security committee can also help reduce the chances of theft. Keeping an eye on your trucks when no one is around will lessen the risk for a theft.

To increase the odds of recovering a stolen forklift, report it to the police right away. Be sure to provide the correct information. To make sure you have it on hand:

  • Register the truck’s serial number in the National Equipment Register (NER) database when you buy it
  • Keep accurate lists of all your trucks, including PIN/serial numbers
  • Give the list to the police, your insurance company, and NER as soon as a truck is stolen

Practicing forklift security can’t prevent all forklift theft. But it doesn’t take much time or effort. It will reduce the odds of a theft occurring. And it will greatly improve your chances of recovering a stolen truck.

Learn Forklift Safety Best Practices

When we think about forklift safety, our minds often go to workplace injuries and preventing accidents. While these are both important aspects of forklift safety, it’s just as important to look out for the security of such valuable machinery. Stolen forklifts will always be a hot commodity, so operators and owners alike must learn how best to protect their investments. Following our tips to prevent forklift theft is a good start. Investing in the training and education of forklift operators is another way to help preserve the integrity of your forklifts. 

Education can make all the difference in the use and storage of forklifts. If you’re hoping to prevent forklift theft, consider enrolling your operators in online forklift training courses offered by Not only will operators learn how to best use forklifts at work, they’ll also discover how to properly store equipment so that it is out of sight and access of would-be thieves. To learn more or to sign up for training, click here.

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