GPS Tracker for Stolen Items: Recover Stolen Equipment and Tools

Posted by GPX Team on December 8, 2023
Table of contents
    John Barbour

    Understanding Equipment Theft in the United States

    In 2022, over 2,000 pieces of heavy equipment were stolen from dealerships, job sites and storage facilities. It’s not just heavy equipment being stolen – power tools are easy targets when left unsecured and hard to trace; tool boxes; raw materials; and more disappear from job sites every day.

    Stolen equipment impacts a business beyond the lost value of the equipment. It can delay projects, increase costs due to unforeseen and last minute equipment rentals, or negatively impact cash flows with insurance premium payments and replacement purchases.

    Police departments are short staffed to address property crimes, including equipment theft. By leveraging GPS trackers for equipment tracking, you not only increase your chances of recovery, you get additional insights that help you manage your equipment inventory more efficiently.

    The Role of GPS in Stolen Equipment Tracking

    GPS uses a series of satellites that relay location information to a GPS device, a tracker. When that tracker is combined with GPX Intelligence’s software platform, you are able to see where your equipment and tools are. With GPX’s geofencing and alerting, you can also see and get email or text alerts when a tool or piece of equipment is in an approved location and when it moves away from an approved jobsite, storage area, and more.

    When a GPS tracker receives location information from the satellite, it sends that information over a cellular network, like a text message, to the GPX Intelligence platform. Combined with custom geofences, text and email based alerting, and the ability to increase reporting frequency, users are able to find the location and receive immediate alerting if a piece of equipment or tool is somewhere it should not be.

    The size of GPS trackers often impacts the battery size, which determines how many location reports a device can send daily and how long the device will live in the field. Our recommended trackers, the AssetTrack and AssetTrack Mini are well suited for construction equipment like heavy equipment, trailers, and tool chests. They come with a 10 year or 5 year battery life when they report 1x per day. This gives you Peace of Mind that the equipment is where it should be but, in the event that they are stolen or misplaced, you are able to increase the reporting frequency to every five minutes to support recovery efforts with the proper authorities. The AssetTrack also offers additional tracking capabilities with BLE functionality. With the ability to read up to 20 BLE AssetTag’s, combining AssetTrack with AssetTags lets you track up to 21 pieces of tools and equipment from a single tracker.

    Choosing the Best GPS Tracker for Stolen Items

    Picking the right GPS tracker for tools and equipment comes down to size, battery life and reporting frequency of the GPS tracker, three items which are closely related. From an operational standpoint, you may prefer the ability to recharge a tracker instead of purchasing a replacement battery. BLE AssetTags are great for tracking small equipment but without an AssetTrack only report their location when near an AssetTrack GPS tracker. 


    The AssetTrack is a larger GPS tracker that has a ten year battery life when it reports one time per day. Standard reporting frequencies are up to every six hours with a recovery mode of every five minutes. With a full battery, recovery mode would only last 10-14 days, however, in our experience, it is rare that a battery is fully charged when an asset needs to be recovered. It also supports BLE letting you track tools or equipment that are too small for a GPS equipment tracker. The AssetTrack can be installed via an internal magnet, adhesive tape, or screwed onto an asset. Its battery offering comes in rechargeable or a non-rechargeable option with the AssetTrack Charge.

    AssetTrack Mini

    The AssetTrack Mini is a smaller, five year battery life with one location report per day. It has similar reporting frequency options and recovery modes as the AssetTrack. It does come in two form factors, one with a flange for screwing it into place and one without a flange if a smaller size is needed. It can be adhered via an internal magnet, adhesive tape, or for the flanged version, screwed onto an asset. The AssetTrack Mini only comes with a replaceable battery.


    AssetTags are BLE tags that have a three year battery life and are constantly reporting. They are great for tracking smaller tools or equipment in a cost effective way. Unlike GPS equipment trackers, they do not have the ability to report their position to the GPX platform. Rather, they rely on an AssetTrack or AssetTrack charge to relay their position. This works by the AssetTrack and AssetTrack Charge reading the signal sent out by the BLE AssetTag and getting its location report via GPS and sending a message to the GPX platform with its location and the BLE AssetTags in its vicinity. AssetTags are readable up to a maximum of 100 meters. 

    In the event the AssetTrack or AssetTrack Mini can’t get a GPS report, both have alternate means of reporting their location through WiFi or cell towers. In a test of a GPS only equipment tracker, we found it reported approximately only 30% of the time. While this will vary depending on usage conditions, it’s critical that a GPS equipment or tool tracker provide location data regardless of its intended use case in the event they need to be recovered. With location data from 3rd party sources and our own proprietary location data, our GPS trackers with WiFi + Cellular backups report a location 98% of the time.


    Case Studies: Tracking Stolen or Misplaced Tools and Equipment with GPS

    • A leading electric utility services company has over 2,000 pieces of equipment across 20 states, including a specialty trailer valued at over $100,000. When it was stolen, our client reported the theft to the local authorities with its last known location provided by GPX. By increasing the reporting frequency from 1x per day to recovery mode, the customer was able to provide real time data directly to authorities to assist in the recovery of the asset. While this was their largest recovery, they have been able to recover seven additional assets that were misplaced or stolen.
    • Another utility developer was shipping more than $60,000 worth of test equipment. While this equipment wasn’t stolen, it was lost by their shipper. Because it contained a GPS tracker, they were able to provide location reports to their shipper to get the test equipment back on track for delivery. 
    • A smaller independent contractor had a $10,000 trailer stolen that would have negatively impacted their operations in having to repurchase or rent to replace it. They were able to update the reporting frequency into repo mode and successfully were able to track the trailer and recover it. 
    • An equipment rental and dealership had a rental trailer worth $8,000 stolen. Since it was tracked with GPS, they were able to find and recover it. 

    How to Track Stolen Tools Using GPS Trackers

    1. Notify proper authorities. This includes in the jurisdiction it was stolen from and work with them to contact authorities in other jurisdictions if the equipment has been purchased. 
    2. Share access to the GPX platform with the authorities. You can do this in two ways:
      1. Create a login with permission to only access “Specific Trackers” with the serial number of the tracker in question. This will give them full access to that particular tracker. 
      2. Send a report – This lets you to export the location data of a tracker and send it as a CSV file to a specific individual.  
    3. When authorities in an area are ready to move towards recovering the asset, update the reporting frequency of the GPS equipment tracker. This can only be done when the device wakes up to report. So if you have a GPS equipment tracker that is only reporting one time per day, you might consider having it report more frequently, like every six hours, before you put it into recovery mode. This gives you more location reports and more frequent options to set it to recovery mode.

    Beyond Misplaced or Stolen Equipment: Generating Operational Efficiencies with GPS Trackers

    When equipment is tracked, not only do you get Peace of Mind from being able to track and monitor its location, you can also generate improved operational efficiencies for your equipment and tools. Some examples of how GPS Equipment Tracking with GPX has helped improve operational efficiencies for our customers:

    • Reduced billing disputes: A company that billed based on the time their equipment was on a customer site was able to reduce billing disputes from customers. Customers would complain that the equipment wasn’t on site for as long as they were invoiced for. Using GPS data, our client has been able to prove that the equipment was on site for as long as billed and eliminate the cost associated with disputed billing, helping increase their revenue. 
    • Monitoring equipment dwell: With our industry leading Dwell Reporting, equipment rental agencies are able to see how long assets sit in a rental lot and are underutilized, helping inform equipment purchases. 

    Going Beyond GPS: How BLE Enhances Equipment Tracking

    With the AssetTrack and AssetTrack Charge, you are able to track the BLE AssetTag. AssetTags are smaller and can be affixed to smaller equipment. Some use cases for equipment tracking include: 

    • Tracking a large tool chest with an AssetTrack and then tagging up to 20 tools with an AssetTag. The chest and the tools will all show their location when the AssetTrack connects to the GPX platform. 
    • Track a trailer with an AssetTrack and up to 20 pieces of equipment in the trailer with an AssetTag. These can be used to keep track of equipment and make sure they are put away properly or in the event of theft, see the trailer, see if the equipment is still with the trailer, or if it is in a high frequency reporting mode, see where the equipment was separated from the trailer.

    Stolen Equipment FAQ

    • How do I update the reporting frequency of a tracker if I need it to be recovered? 
      • When a GPS Equipment trackers is set to report infrequently, like once a day, they go to ‘sleep’ to save battery life. When it wakes up, the GPS tracker will listen for instructions it receives from our platform, sent out via our Command functionality. When a device receives a command, it updates its settings and reporting frequency. 
    • Will a GPS jammer prevent a GPS equipment tracker from reporting its location? 
      • GPS jammers are exactly that, jammers. They prevent a device from receiving a GPS signal. While our GPS equipment trackers do have WiFi and Cellular reporting fallback, most jamming devices will prevent communication from or to a device. 
    • Will the GPS equipment trackers work if my tools or equipment are stolen and sold in another country?
      • The AssetTrack and AssetTrack Mini devices report in Mexico and Canada and a number of other countries so you will be able to see if they have left the United States.
    • Does a GPS signal become more accurate when a GPS equipment tracker is put into recovery mode?
      • It can. When a GPS device is set to only report once per day, it has to wake up, find the GPS satellites and triangulate its position. This can be impacted by whether the device is indoor or outdoors, weather, number of satellites the device finds. When the device is switched to a recovery mode where it reports every five minutes, the device is constantly awake and in connection with the satellites. 
    • Can I share location data with a third party to assist in recovery? 
      • Yes! Under Manage Users, Invite a new user via email with access to the Specific Devices you want to recover. Once the asset is recovered, you are able to remove access at any time.


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