PLANT managers could soon have to register every piece of equipment in their fleets with TER, the National Plant and Equipment Register, if they want to get insurance.
Julian Radcliffe, chairman of TER, has called on insurance companies and banks to make positive registration mandatory as a means of cutting the UK's £1 million a week plant theft.
At a TER conference in London last week Mr Radcliffe said: 'This is the core issue going forward. If we can get positive registration, we can get due diligence in the second-hand market.Without an HPI-type due diligence in the used market we will never improve our theft recovery rate.'
Several manufacturers already register new equipment sales with TER directly, including JCB, Cat, Liebherr, Kubota and Compair Holman.But TER manager Tim Purbrick said that only around 250 plant operating firms use TER from a possible 30,000 companies running fleets of plant in the UK. Even the large amount of kit registered by some companies - GE Capital, for instance, has more than 35,000 items registered - does not offset this general apathy.
Without registration it is difficult for the police to trace stolen equipment. All vehicles on the road are registered with the DVLA in Swansea and police have a recovery rate of more than 70 per cent.With plant the recovery rate is less than 30 per cent.
This is exacerbated by the fact that at present most plant companies simply have a fleet policy, with insurance firms unaware of exactly what they are insuring.This can lead to confusion over ownership, arguments concerning the value of equipment and fraud.
A newcomer to the sector, Mayflower Insurance, has committed to making registration compulsory and the NFU is looking closely at it. But Mr Radcliffe asked the seven insurance companies present, of just 10 firms who currently handle plant insurance, what was standing in the way of such a move.Not one was prepared to answer.
Of course there are concerns that, if not every company gets on board then insurance firms that do insist on registration could lose business.
Mr Purbrick also believes that initial registration would throw up the fact that all insurance firms have, unknowingly, got stolen equipment already on their books.
He said: 'Insurers are all insuring stolen equipment in the UK now. So, if you say to clients you must register, we will find stolen plant in some of those fleets.'
A possible way forward would be to register only equipment added to customer fleets from now, which would include used equipment being bought in.That would certainly make buyers of second-hand plant ask a few more questions about where the equipment had come from and whether it already had finance on it.
TER registration is not expensive. Less than five items are put on for free and the maximum payment a fleet will make is £100 a year.Mr Purbrick said: 'This must become a condition of insurance.'