Thatcham is consulting on plans to introduce criteria for new security devices to halt the £50m problem of stolen plant and construction equipment.

The insurance industry's vehicle research centre wants to extend its scheme for assessing the reliability of vehicle immobilisers and alarms to heavy plant and equipment. This would enable insurers to offer a range of discounts on premiums, depending on the level of plant security.

Mark Inman, Thatcham research manager for vehicle electronics, said: “Plant owners are currently using security devices that are not up to the job, because it is the only equipment available.”

Inman said the new standards would encourage security device manufacturers to design products specifically for heavy plant. Thatcham is currently inviting consultation on its proposed criteria from a number of groups, including the police, plant owners and manufacturers and security companies. The deadline for submissions is May 31.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has been part of a Home Office working party, the Plant Theft Action Group, which has been investigating the problem of plant theft for more than four years. The group recently issued a report, pinpointing the need to enhance police understanding of plant theft and to increase levels of plant security.

The ABI estimated that construction plant theft cost insurers up to £50m each year.