Registration can be strong deterrent…

28 January 2000

Registration can be strong deterrent…

Locked gates, alarms,

engine immobilisers and

remembering to remove

engine ignition keys all play

their part in discouraging

theft of vehicles and kit from

farms, but equipment

registration schemes can

also help. Peter Hill reports

ITS all about deterrence. About planting an element of doubt in the mind of a potential thief. Doubt as to whether he is going to get away with driving off the farms quad bike, tractor or any other item of equipment.

At present, tractors and other large farm machines are not high on the hit list. Quad bikes, stock trailers and 4x4s are more popular because they are easier to steal, can be quickly moved from the scene and are relatively easy to sell.

But as vehicle and equipment theft is more effectively thwarted in towns and cities, so farms are being more frequently targeted. Methods of protection already applied to equipment used on construction sites readily lend themselves to agricultural machinery.

Registration schemes, which provide a readily accessible database of vehicle and ownership details, have three primary purposes – to deter would-be thieves; to improve the chances of recovering stolen vehicles; and to increase the rate of successful prosecutions for such thefts.

All are based on establishing a clear link between the machine or vehicle and its rightful owner. Knowing that the equipment is identified in this way acts as a deterrent.

It allows spot-checks to be made (at the road-side, in auctions and at the docks, for example), so there is greater chance of detection. And, if challenged, there is little point in the thief claiming ownership when the rightful owner can be quickly and established.

The key to achieving maximum deterrence effect is to make sure prominent stickers are used to advertise that the equipment is registered.

Several registration schemes are currently in operation in the UK.

NPR Datatag Division uses minute transponders which only reveal the unique code number they hold to an appropriate scanner. These have been supplied to police forces and other relevant authorities, as well as terminals giving access to the owner database.

The smallest tags can be secreted into wiring looms and upholstery, so they are difficult to find. Bigger, more robust transponders are used on larger vehicles, including one mounted securely in a prominent position – as a deterrent and to make it as easy as possible for its code number to be read and checked.

Datadot microdiscs can be used to mark components on larger vehicles as a back up to the transponders.

Alpha Scientific pioneered the microdisc or microdot system. Each set of minuscule discs carry the same unique code number which can be applied by a special glue just about anywhere.

The company recommends standard locations of Alpha Dot applications to make detection and checking easier, but with additional random locations used to make it difficult and impractical for a thief to remove all identifying discs.

The Agricultural Machinery Register uses transponders, microdots and etching to apply its unique identification number to an item of equipment which is also photograped.

The photo and all relevant details are used to form an owners "passport" which is also available for viewing on the Datatag scheme database. This is designed to help police officers with the correct identification of vehicles.

Users of the scheme are advised to notify the TERstolen item register should the advertising stickers and yard signs fail to deter theft.

The Equipment Register, which absorbed the National Plant Register scheme a couple of years ago, relies on existing identification pointers such as serial, chassis and engine numbers for its ownership database.

There is also a stolen equipment register which enables anyone planning to buy used equipment to check out its ownership and finance status first.

TER reckons to be pro-active in tackling machinery and equipment theft, employing a team of specialist plant investigators to assist police operations, make checks at auctions and generally raise TERs profile which should also improve its effectiveness as a deterrent.

While all companies receive enthusiastic encouragement from police, insurers and a handful of construction equipment manufacturers who provide registration as a customer service, they are frustrated by a lack of response within the agricultural sector.

Merlo, JCB, Kubota, Ifor Williams and Richardson Trailers apart, tractor and equipment makers have apparently shown little concern for farm equipment theft which they see as being at insignificant levels.

Cynics point to the fact that a stolen tractor represents a replacement sales opportunity for dealer and manufacturer alike. But, quite apart from the individuals inconvenience and feeling of vulnerability that results from such thefts, insurers will surely not tolerate indifference to rising losses for long.


Alpha Scientific (01727-875959)

Description: Records machine ownership details against unique identification number carried on AlphaDot microscopic discs secreted about the equipment. Applied by individual owner, dealer or manufacturer. Stickers and farm posters advertising registration.

Services: Ownership registration £14-£25 per item.

NPR Datatag Division (01482-222070)

Description: Records machinery ownership details against unique identification number carried on micro-transponders read by scanner. Larger kits include Datadot coded microscopic discs. Prominent transponder (plus hidden ones) for larger vehicles; stickers advertising registration.

Services: Ownership registration £10-£51 per item.


Description: Records unique number (engraved and carried by hidden transponders)and other identification information – plus a photograph – against ownership details. Stickers advertise registration with the scheme

Services: Ownership registration £45.

The Equipment Register (TER) (01225-464599)

Description: Records machine make, model, colour, serial, chassis and engine numbers, DVLA registration, VIN and ownership details. Stickers advertising registration.

Services: Ownership registration £15 per item. Pre-purchase theft and finance check for second-hand machines £25.

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