Skip to main content

Heavy vehicle theft in Australia, 2004 to 2014

Published: February 2015

Reported heavy motor vehicle thefts represent only 4 percent of Australia's overall motor vehicle theft problem. The commercial implications and high value of these vehicles means their loss has a significant impact on their owners and insurers. Heavy vehicles are categorised by CARS as generally having a gross vehicle mass of more than 3.5 tonnes and exclude buses.

All graphs are interactive. Click the legend to hide or display a series.

Image of example heavy vehicles
Australia - Number of short term (recovered) heavy vehicle thefts by segment, 2004 - 2014
YearPlant and equipmentHeavy truckUnknown
20042208650
20052088470
20062668761
20072779195
20082928585
20092997084
20102897333
20113487803
20122967533
20133257526
20142786782
Australia - Number of profit motivated (not recovered) heavy vehicle thefts by segment, 2004 - 2014
YearPlant and equipmentHeavy truckUnknown
20042621700
20052671811
20062962310
20073022355
20084002699
20093802573
20104302296
20114952916
20124852899
20134574038
20144204869

Key findings

  • The analysis reveals that between 2004 and 2014, Australia recorded a 38 percent decrease in motor vehicle thefts (2004: 84,930 thefts - 2014: 52,965). During the same period, heavy vehicle thefts increased by 23 percent (2004: 1,517 thefts - 2014: 1,873).
  • The increase in heavy vehicle thefts was largely due to a 45 percent rise in plant and equipment thefts (2004: 482 thefts - 2014: 698). By comparison, thefts of heavy trucks increased by 12 percent (2004: 1,035 thefts - 2014: 1,164). As illustrated in the charts above, there were a very small number of unknown heavy vehicle thefts and no further analysis was conducted on this segment.
  • Between 2004 and 2014, the largest increase was in profit motivated thefts. Profit motivated heavy truck thefts increased by 186 percent and profit motivated plant and equipment thefts increased by 60 percent. Short term plant and equipment thefts increased by 26 percent while short term heavy truck thefts decreased by 22 percent during the same period.
  • The increase in heavy vehicle thefts has not been uniform across Australia. Of the larger states or territories, Victoria recorded a 64 percent increase, followed by increases in Western Australia (34 percent), Queensland (21 percent) and New South Wales (12 percent). South Australia recorded a 26 percent reduction in heavy vehicle thefts.
  • In Victoria, plant and equipment thefts increased 74 percent between 2004 and 2014 (Profit motivated thefts increased 84 percent and short term thefts increased 50 percent). Heavy truck thefts also increased 58 percent during the same period.
  • In Western Australia, there was a 143 percent increase in plant and equipment thefts between 2004 and 2014 (Profit motivated thefts increased 261 percent and short term thefts increased 79 percent). Heavy truck thefts decreased 7 percent during the same period.
  • In Queensland, there was a 57 percent increase in plant and equipment thefts between 2004 and 2014 (Profit motivated thefts increased 79 percent and short term thefts increased 40 percent). Heavy truck thefts decreased 18 percent during the same period.
  • In New South Wales, there was a 17 percent increase in heavy truck thefts between 2004 and 2014 (Profit motivated thefts increased 319 percent and short term thefts decreased 38 percent). Plant and equipment thefts decreased 5 percent during the same period.

2014 Snapshot

  • In 2014, there were 1,873 heavy vehicles stolen across Australia which represents 4 percent of all motor vehicle thefts (3 percent of short term theft and 5 percent of profit motivated thefts).
  • Of the 1,873 heavy vehicles stolen, 62 percent (1,164) were heavy trucks, 37 percent (698) were plant and equipment and 1 percent (11) were unknown heavy vehicles.
  • Plant and equipment had a recovery rate of 40 percent and 58 percent of heavy trucks were recovered in 2014. Total heavy vehicle thefts had a recovery rate of 51 percent.
  • The total estimated value of heavy vehicles stolen in 2014 was $51.2 million. Short term thefts were valued at $24.7 million and profit motivated thefts were estimated to be valued at $26.5 million.
Australia - Heavy vehicle theft proportions by segment and jurisdiction, 2014
StatePlant and equipmentHeavy truck
QLD35.0%12.1%
VIC25.2%21.7%
WA17.8%11.1%
NSW16.3%49.2%
SA4.4%3.1%
ACT,NT,TAS1.3%2.7%
Australia - Heavy vehicle thefts by segment and owner estimated value, 2014
SegmentEstimated median value ($AUD)Sum of estimated median values
Short term theftsProfit motivated theftsTotal thefts
Plant and equipment$40,000$11,120,000$16,800,000$27,920,000
Heavy truck$20,000$13,560,000$9,720,000$23,280,000
Total-$24,680,000$26,520,000$51,200,000

The medians were calculated from 38 percent of heavy vehicle thefts that had an owner-estimated vehicle value.

  • Of the 698 plant and equipment vehicles stolen, the largest proportions were Tractors (24 percent), Skidsteers (11 percent) and Excavators (10 percent).
  • Mowers, Skidsteers and Excavators had the lowest percentage recovered with 12, 31 and 38 percent respectively.
  • Plant and equipment thefts were generally of younger vehicles with more than two fifths (43 percent) between 0 and 9 years old. Almost two fifths (39 percent) of heavy truck thefts were 10 to 19 years old.
Australia - Plant and equipment thefts by vehicle type, 2014
Vehicle typeTotal thefts% of total thefts% recovered
Tractor16423.5%44.5
Skidsteer7811.2%30.8
Excavator689.7%38.2
Forklift436.2%53.5
Mower253.6%12.0
Loader182.6%44.4
Backhoe81.1%75.0
Bulldozer60.9%100.0
Grader50.7%80.0
Roller40.6%75.0
Sweeper40.6%50.0
Crane10.1%100.0
Unknown27439.3%36.1
Australia - Heavy vehicle thefts by segment and age, 2014
Vehicle age% of plant and equipment thefts% of heavy truck thefts
0-4 years21.26.7
5-9 years21.915.1
10-14 years6.621.4
15-19 years3.617.9
20-24 years1.016.2
25-29 years1.013.7
30+ years1.74.8
Unknown43.04.1

Note that age was unknown in 43 percent of plant and equipment thefts.

Australia - Top plant and equipment theft targets, 2014
MakeShort term theftsProfit motivated theftsTotal thefts
Caterpillar5560115
Kubota204262
John Deere243357
Bobcat32427
Case91726
Toyota101323
Komatsu81220
New Holland61319
Massey Ferguson10616
Clark3912
Dingo3811
Kobelco4711
Australia - Top heavy truck theft targets, 2014
MakeShort term theftsProfit motivated theftsTotal thefts
Isuzu201119320
Mitsubishi116100216
Hino10545150
Toyota5752109
Daihatsu223557
Ford281846
Nissan212041
Mazda261440
Volvo161228
Kenworth14923
International11920
Iveco8917
Australia - Heavy vehicle thefts by segment and location, 2014
Theft location% of heavy truck thefts% of plant and equipment thefts
Business/Commercial/
Government Services
34.341.6
Other5.124.4
Residential14.113.9
Street39.310.5
Outdoor Space/
Facilities
2.16.7
Car Park2.81.3
Petrol Station1.10.8
Shopping Centre0.40.4
Passenger Transport0.00.4
Unspecified0.60.0
  • Almost four in ten heavy vehicle thefts (36 percent) occurred at sites associated with business/commercial/or government services.
  • Heavy trucks were most likely to be taken from the street (39 percent). In contrast, only 11 percent of plant and equipment were taken from the street.

Map of the 1,873 heavy vehicle thefts in Australia, 2014

Getting started - Click or tap a theft cluster to zoom in.  Zoom with your mouse scroll wheel, or multi-touch zoom on mobile browsers.

Legend: 1 to 9 10 to 49 50 to 149 >= 150 thefts Theft clusters are approximated from the suburb centroid (mid-point).


This report is based on heavy vehicle thefts reported to Police. Some incidents may have been recorded under other property offence types and are therefore not part of these analyses. Recovery status is as at 31 December 2014 for TAS and 31 January 2015 for all other states and territories.

The National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council (NMVTRC) acknowledges all police services, registration authorities, participating insurers, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, Glass's Information Services and Insurance Australia Group for the supply of the data on which this report is complied. Theft incident data may be subject to later revision by the data providers. This work is copyright. Material may be reproduced for personal, non-commercial use or for use within your organisation with attribution to the NMVTRC. © 2016 NMVTRC. All rights reserved.

Charts powered by highcharts.