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Komatsu tracks down NZ excavator thieves

A New Zealand contractor is celebrating the return of his stolen Komatsu excavator after an onboard GPS monitoring system was used to disable the machine and lead the owner and police to its new place of work in Rotorua bushland.

Goodrick Contracting Director ​Tony Goodrick says thieves forced their way into his equipment depot, stole a flat-bed truck with a PC30MR-3 excavator on it, offloaded the excavator in bushland, and then went to dispose of the truck.

“They’d tried to dump the truck in the ocean by driving it straight across the beach and into the surf, but it got bogged down in the sand,” Goodrick says. “The first alert we got that our equipment was missing was actually when we received calls from people who found our bogged truck and called us, asking us to remove it from the beach!”

Because Komatsu’s KOMTRAX asset-tracking system was fitted as standard to the PC30MR-3, the local Rotorua dealer was able to get a fix on the digger within an hour and give Goodrick the exact coordinates where he could find it.

“I immediately called the police and gave them the coordinates,” he says. “They went looking for it but it was raining so heavily they couldn’t spot it from the road, plus they didn’t have permission to go traipsing across private land.

“Komatsu got in touch with us when they learned our excavator was still missing and offered to remotely immobilise it — I agreed instantly.”

 The joy of recovering the excavator was tempered by the discovery that it had sustained substantial damage while doing more than 28 hours of work at the hands of inexperienced and careless operators.

 “They had damaged the main lifting ram and almost every panel,” Goodrick says, “but apart from that I have to say that our excavator was in pretty good shape, considering the treatment it received. When we remotely immobilised the PC30MR-3, the thieves pulled the fuel system and all of the fuses out because they didn’t know why it had stopped.

“It only had 250 hours on it when it was stolen and Komatsu restored it to brand-new condition, even fitting new panels and completely repainting it.”

Besides its location and security functions, the KOMTRAX system is also used for keeping track of machinery use, condition reporting and maintenance reminders. The GPS and engine data is sent to the KOMTRAX data centre, and can be accessed from the machine or via a computer.

“Machinery theft is big business in New Zealand — buying these machines signifies a significant investment on our part and we set our targets based on the operation of that machine,” Goodrick says. “To lose such a piece of machinery outright would have been devastating — not just in terms of capital expenditure, but a huge hit to operations and our ability to fulfil contracts. I didn’t buy the PC30MR-3 because of KOMTRAX, but I’m certainly glad it had it!”

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