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How to prevent theft in the landscape industry

April 19, 2021 -  By

Additional benefits

Recovering equipment when it’s stolen is just one benefit to GPS tracking equipment, says Craig Sandmann, North American sales manager for HillTip.

“You log in to a portal from anywhere in the world on any device, and provided your equipment is also hooked up to the Wi-Fi, you can see your equipment in real time, exactly where it is, and you can see what it’s doing — how fast it’s going, at what time, how fast it’s spreading, how far it’s spreading it, what operating mode it’s in,” he says. “Users can also look at the route that the truck is taking and see the exact amount of material that’s been spread or sprayed in that area.”

Sandmann says HillTip’s HTrack online tracking software for spreaders, sprayers and snowplows has been in use in Europe for 10 years. The North American version was launched last year. He says the core users are larger property maintenance companies and municipalities.

“We have large customers in the Upper Midwest that are using this system and able to keep eyes on their equipment,” Sandmann says. “An operations manager who is running a HillTip piece of equipment, the instances of theft would be small to nonexistent because they can see where the equipment is at all times.”

Cohea agrees that there are additional benefits to GPS tracking beyond protecting equipment from theft. LDC Groups is an $8 million company that provides design/build services to residential and commercial clients. Cohea says his employees don’t speed because they know an alarm will sound in the home office any time the speed limit is broken. Also resolved is a different type of theft: labor. LDC knows exactly how long workers are at a job site.

“We go back and match the worksheets to what GPS says because years ago, we did have a crew out of town steal hours from us,” he says. “They didn’t know we had GPS; it was when we first experimented. They said, ‘We got to the job site at 6:30.’ It was like, ‘No, you got to the job site at 9:30.’”

Adrenaline rush

Nicoletti says all companies, big and small, are looking into tracking their assets. A smaller company with only two trucks is hurt worse when a truck is stolen over a company with 100 trucks, but a company with 100 trucks has so many assets to monitor it’s equally vital to them. One thing is for sure, the theft business is booming, he says. In his 20 years of working in asset tracking, he’s never seen such a high level of theft.

“We’ve got people stealing everything; trailers, trucks, equipment, tools, ladders,” he says. “We had a customer in Texas have 23 skid-steer loaders stolen and recovered. Those are like $60,000 each. I don’t know if it’s the pandemic and people being out of work, but the police are busy. It’s a perfect storm.”

Cohea says his team decided to wire their equipment with GPS tracking when their friends at Harco Equipment Rental in northeast Georgia warned them that theft in the area was on the rise. Last month’s incident was the first time one of their machines was actually stolen, though.

“Everybody asks me about the adrenaline rush (of the chase),” he says. “It was exciting, but the only time I got an adrenaline rush was when I thought they were at a gas station I was coming up on because I thought, ‘What am I going to do if I see my equipment sitting there and they’re gassing up?’ I already knew I wasn’t going to engage them. When you’re dealing with (drug addicts) … they did have guns in their car. I’m not going to die for a piece of equipment.”

Additional reporting by Sarah Webb, LM managing editor. 

Seth Jones

About the Author:

Seth Jones, a graduate of Kansas University’s William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications, was voted best columnist in the industry in 2014 and 2018 by the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association. Seth has more than 19 years of experience in the golf and turf industries and has traveled the world seeking great stories. He is editor-in-chief of Landscape Management, Golfdom and Athletic Turf magazines. Jones can be reached at

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