Border officers target heavy equipment theft
The Canada Border Services Agency is cracking down on the theft of heavy vehicles by scanning export containers in ports in Montreal and Halifax before they're shipped abroad.
Border services officers have recovered 476 vehicles — worth $14 million — with a $2-million machine that scans the contents of containers without having to open them. Officers scan a few hundred trucks every week.
Thieves made off with more than 3,300 heavy machines — including backhoes, bulldozers and loaders — in 2009, said George Kleinsteiber, a theft consultant for the Ontario Sewer and Watermain Construction Association.
Of those, 70 per cent were never recovered, according to Statistics Canada.
"They'll go to any region where there's a demand for heavy equipment and mainly we're talking Europe, Africa and into the Middle East," Kleinsteiber said.
They're also shipped to South America, said Charles Rabbat, who directs investigative services in Quebec for the Insurance Bureau of Canada.
The insurance bureau is backing proposed legislation that would give the border services agency more power to search containers and seize stolen vehicles, as well as make it a crime to tamper with vehicle serial numbers.
The legislation comes too late for Frank Fusillo, the president of Con-Ker Construction Corp. in Oakville, Ont., who has had four heavy vehicles stolen since 2009, including bulldozers, a backhoe and a loader.
"Usually what happens is if these things get stolen overnight or over weekends and we get to work on Monday morning and there's no machine … we just can't work that day," Fusillo told CBC News.
Making it easy for thieves is a single-key system adopted by heavy-equipment manufacturers.
"The manufacturers only use one key to start all of their equipment and that's because the owners want it that way," Kleinsteiber said. "They don't want 43 keys for 43 different pieces of equipment."
With files from the CBC's Alison Crawford