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Equipment theft turns into recovery for Colorado rental operation

By Connie Lannan

January 27, 2023

Arvada Rent-Alls forkliftAndrew Heesacker, president/CEO, Arvada Rent-Alls, Arvada, Colo., is breathing a huge sigh of relief. His company’s 6-month-old forklift that had been stolen off a job site has been returned. It’s a harrowing tale that could have had a very different ending, but thanks to GPS, a proactive police force and the help of other American Rental Association (ARA) members, it turned into a success story that has offered many lessons for the Arvada Rent-Alls team.

“We had just received our new forklift in April 2022,” says Heesacker, who serves as ARA Region Seven director. “This machine has a 12- to 18-month lead time to reorder and has an estimated price point of $70,000. We had it equipped with a DPL Telematics unit and sent it out on rent to a job site as soon as we got it in.”

Apparently, the machine was stolen from the job site Jan. 1, 2023. Unfortunately, the job site was shut down for more than a week, so the theft wasn’t noticed by Heesacker’s customer until Jan. 11.

“The customer immediately put in a police report, and we tracked the GPS, which, fortunately, the thieves did not find. While the unit was on, we didn’t have it set to ping if it left the job site. So, as soon as we found out it was stolen, we activated that and discovered it was in Morgan Hill, Calif.,” Heesacker says.  

Chris Dahmer, Arvada Rent-Alls general manager, contacted the sheriff in Morgan Hill, who was able to call up the report the customer had filed in Colorado. A search warrant was granted for the compound where the machine was. “But the thieves moved the forklift across the street, so the sheriff had to put in for a second search warrant. Luckily, that went through quickly and they were able to search the property, which had other stolen equipment there,” Heesacker says. 

It just so happens that A Tool Shed, based in Santa Cruz, Calif., has a location in Morgan Hill about 10 minutes from the compound where the machine was located. “I reached out to Robert Pedersen Sr., president, and Rob Jr., vice president. I know both very well as Rob Sr. serves with me on the ARA Board of Directors. He serves as the ARA Equipment Rental Shared Interest Group co-chair. Rob Jr. is in my ARA peer advisory group. They graciously picked up the unit and stored it in their yard until our outside hauler could bring it back to Colorado,” Heesacker says.   

He is grateful that everything came together and the machine was not damaged through the theft. “It still had some of our stickers on it. The thieves didn’t take those off,” Heesacker says. 

Arvada Rent-Alls forkliftMany lessons have been learned through this experience, he notes.  

Using GPS/telematics units. “Putting a GPS or other tracking unit on your equipment is so important. We have it on all our equipment. Last year we put a really big emphasis on getting that done. The units nowadays are a lot smaller and more integrated. It is not like the old days. It is much easier now to hide them. I just wish we would have activated the ability to track the equipment as it was stolen off the job site. Since this incident, we have set it up so we get a ping if it moves off site,” he says. 

Networking. “Because I knew the Pedersens, I was able to reach out to them to see whether they could help me in picking up the equipment. I am very grateful to them and can’t say enough about the value of networking with your rental peers,” Heesacker says.

Registering equipment on the National Equipment Register (NER) database. “This is something that we always intended to do, but we never got around to doing it. We are doing it now. If we would have had our equipment registered, we probably could have expedited things. The theft alert would have gone out to all in law enforcement as soon as the police report was filed,” he says.

ARA rental operator members may register up to 1,000 pieces of their mobile, off-road equipment to the NER HELPTech database for free — all as a benefit of membership in ARA. 

Being proactive. “Our customer put in a police report as soon as he realized the equipment was stolen. That got the ball rolling. The sheriff in Morgan Hill worked quickly to secure a second search warrant after the thieves moved the equipment. All those measures paid off,” he says.  

Heesacker hopes other rental operators will learn from what happened to him. “There is tremendous value in telematics/GPS, in networking, in registering your equipment with NER and in working with your customers and police so they can be as proactive as possible. I hope this story serves as a lesson about the importance of those things,” he says.