Telematics to the rescue

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Something wasn’t mooing: The CareTrack satellite shot of the missing Volvo L90G.Something wasn’t mooing: The CareTrack satellite shot of the missing Volvo L90G.

To Detective Daniel Pearson, ace construction equipment theft investigator, equipment telematics are invaluable when it comes to stolen machine recovery. “About 90 percent of machines that have telematics can be recovered,” the Haltom City, Texas, police officer said during the Construction Symposium held last month in Dallas.

Ric Simon, Phoenix, Arizona branch manager with Arnold Machinery emphatically agrees.  Proof positive came one Monday morning after the Volvo dealership had delivered a L90G, valued at $200,000, to demo at a customer’s jobsite the previous Friday.

The first sign of trouble came when the branch got a call from a local businessman. He’d seen the machine on the side of the road during the weekend, and observing there was no construction work in the area, noted the dealer decal and number. When the loader was still there Monday morning, he gave Arnold Machinery a call. 

And so the dealer personnel dispatched to the customer’s job that morning for operator orientation suddenly had a new mission: recover the loader. One problem soon arose, though. In the 40 minutes it took to get to the reported location, the machine was gone.

Simon then contacted the police … and Volvo Construction Equipment. The machine was equipped with Volvo’s CareTrack telematics, but the dealership had not yet registered it, something usually done when a unit is sold or goes out on rental. And so they needed Volvo’s help to locate it.

Reaching Bill Sauber, Volvo’s manager of remote technologies, Simon gave him the machine’s specifics. “The machine reported back its location within three minutes,” Sauber says. Switching to satellite view on CareTrack, Sauber was able to tell Simon the L90G was in the middle of a feedlot about 40 minutes south of Phoenix. Within 15 minutes, local police recovered the machine.

“There were some anxious moments, especially since the Mexican border is so close,” Simon says. “But it had a happy ending.” One thing remains unsatisfactory, however, to Simon: the thieves remain undetected, with the police showing little interest in investigating further. This is a common problem with law enforcement, says Pearson. With other looming priorities, scant funds and little equipment knowledge, officers have few incentives to pursue an equipment theft case, especially if the machine has been recovered.

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Still, the dealership has learned: turn on the telematics immediately on new machines.