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Thatcham's star rating aims to unite range of security factors

For many years plant manufacturers were criticised for very lax security on their machines – common keys, no immobilisation and the lack of any form of registration.

But things have changed with the introduction of CESAR registration and an array of immobilisers and tracking systems now on offer. Thatcham, the motor insurance repair research centre, has brought these strands together in a ‘five-star’ scheme for plant security.

As a machine gains more stars it will not only be more secure but also attract lower insurance premiums. However, a key factor in improving plant security is that it should not impede the use of machines, especially those on hire from rental firms.

“We are very aware of these concerns as are the plant manufacturers, and systems are now being introduced that provide better security without constraining machine and workforce flexibility,” says Thatcham vehicle security research engineer Martyn Randle.

Star stages

The first Thatcham star is given for CESAR marking, and most manufacturers now include registration as standard or an option on UK machines.

The second is about key security and password or PIN number protected immobilisers come into play.

“Systems are now being introduced that provide better security without constraining machine and workforce flexibility”

Martyn Randle, Thatcham

Fitting a Thatcham-approved immobiliser gets the third star. Immobilisers must pass a number of tests including a 15-minute attack by Thatcham’s experts.

This means the cost of testing can deter some smaller suppliers and the list of approved systems is dominated by plant manufacturers such as Caterpillar, Hitachi, JCB and Kubota, although there are some independent systems.

The number of approved system from the plant manufacturer is set to increase as emissions regulations drive the use of electronic engine controls, which can also be configured to act as an immobiliser.

Increased cab security can gain a further star and here again the common key policy has proved something of a stumbling block in a market dominated by hire companies.

An After-Theft Tracking Systems has to be fitted to gain the final star but again it has to be Thatcham approved.

Alarm factors

Beyond the physical testing there is an important point about where any alarm will be directed and how it will be handled.

For the police to act on an alarm the theft must first be verified by the machine owner, which many providers do via a central control room which is manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

With most manufacturers offering CESAR marking, many machines gain one star and a high proportion of products from Hitcahi and Kubota achieve two, while some Kubota, Caterpillar and JCB machines get a three-star rating.

Machines from other manufacturers are not necessarily unprotected: they may be fitted with devices that are effective but not Thatcham approved. A full list of approved machines can be found at

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