Plant theft cost £9m in the first quarter of 2009

Brokers and the police have called on insurers to cut premiums for construction firms that have taken steps to stop plant theft.

The calls were made during a construction industry conference at New Scotland Yard during which it was revealed there was a 16% drop in stolen plant – construction equipment – between January and March this year, compared with Q4 of last year. But the thefts still cost more than £9m, the Metropolitan Police said.

DC Ian Elliott of the Met’s Plant and Agricultural National Intelligence Unit (P&ANIU), launched last year to combat plant theft, said: “I’d like to see insurance companies give tangible benefits such as reducing premiums or excess when underwriting policies for clients that have implemented security measures for their plants.” His calls were backed by brokers at the conference.

Allianz said discounts have always been available to customers who take a pro-active approach to plant security, but added that recognised security systems such as the Home Office-approved Construction Equipment and Security Registration Scheme and Thatcham’s 5-star New Vehicle Security Rating have allowed insurers to develop underwriting strategies for clients that voluntarily adopt these measures.

Martin Ball, underwriting operations manager at Allianz, said he would take into account improved plant equipment security. “I would imagine that the main construction insurers would want to differentiate in terms of premium pricing between those who take security seriously and invest in their own security,” he said. “That is a position that Allianz will be taking.”

Ball called on brokers to provide more detailed risk information. “It’s been quite difficult to accurately price a contractor’s fleet if you are only getting a single sum insured. You don’t know what security each item has got. The only way to do that is to get an asset register or an itemised plant schedule that gives you the details of individual items of kit,” he said.

The P&ANIU, funded by contributions from Allianz, Aviva, Zurich, R&SA and HSB Haughton, issued its quarterly report on plant theft at the conference. Between January and March 2009, more than a quarter (27 per cent) of all items stolen were mini or compact excavators.Tractors remained the second most stolen item. The P&ANIU estimated that if an average value of £10,000 was applied to each item stolen in the previous three months, plant worth about £9.26m has gone missing.