Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Thursday 8 December 2016

Feature

Web database offers owners a chance to keep tabs on where their plant isThe online chase for those tractor thieves

Bruce Lett

Published 04/10/2011 | 05:00

Since the summer of 2010, there has been quite a number of tractor thefts across Ireland and Britain, either directly or through fraudulent purchases with dodgy bank drafts.

  • Go To

A number of these vehicles were recovered by gardai and police, and we covered many here in the Farming Independent, including one 11th hour dramatic find at the Cambridge machinery sales in England.

This particular tractor was bought from the Enniscorthy Motor Company, in Co Wexford, using a fake bank draft. It resurfaced across the water at the monthly Cambridge machinery sale with a new identity. It had been rebadged as a slightly different model, its identifying numbers had been changed and front linkage removed.

Alarm bells were raised when it was spotted by a regular Irish visitor to the sales who felt there was something wrong with it.

A number of phone calls later, the tractor was impounded and eventually returned to its rightful owner.

The seller/thief had gone to great lengths to give what is a relatively common make and model of tractor a new identity. What made it easier to positively identify the tractor in this particular case was some damage and the subsequent repair to the bell housing between the engine and the transmission, which had occurred earlier in its legitimate working life.

It was this distinguishing feature that made it stand out from tractors of the same make, model and similar vintage, which were virtually identical.

The only major difference between tractors of a same make and model is often their serial number. This makes them ideal candidates for theft and hard for police to track down.

Also Read


Another regular target of thieves within the sector is the Ifor Williams trailer, simply because there are lots of them out there and they all look virtually the same.

Dundalk man Eamonn Brennan is tackilng this issue with a new company, www.theplantfiles.com.

With plenty of letters after his name, Eamonn is a civil engineer by trade. Based on his own experience of stolen plant from a site where he worked, his company was born.

"When the items of plant were stolen, the police needed as much information as possible from serial numbers to pictures and identifying features," he says. "Most of this wasn't readily available. In fact, it was total chaos, which makes it very easy for thieves. For this reason, it is not always easy to identify a stolen tractor or vehicle from a garda or police perspective.

"With theplantfiles.com, we aim to create a database of plant and agricultural machines to deter theft, hinder resale and aid recovery of stolen items."

Users of the service can register and store all of the details of their equipment, creating a unique fingerprint for that item.

For example, in the case of a tractor, all of its credentials can be uploaded and stored. These would normally include its registration, serial number or VIN number, engine number, transmission number, axle/s number/s and so on. Other items, such as whether it is fitted with an alarm, immobiliser or tracking device, can also be recorded.

Perhaps the most helpful information stored in the database is a pictorial record of the machine, so theplantfiles.com requires a minimum of four photographs for its database, with a maximum of 10-12. Among these would be general photographs and pictures of identifying features unique to the vehicle.

Eamonn suggests that these could include dents, scrapes, a tear in a seat, a broken reflector, slice in a tyre or anything that would help gardai or police identify the tractor as yours and give your machine a unique fingerprint, even if it has been given a new identity.

Other information such as the vehicle registration documents, service history or even a video of the tractor or machine can be uploaded.

A sticker-type ID tag on the vehicle gives it a unique number within theplantfiles.com archive, and the vehicle's data can be accessed through a computer or an iPhone app developed for theplantfiles.com.

This allows a user to update information such as service records or add a picture if the vehicle has been developed or fitted with another unique identifying feature.

The system is much more than just a database though, as Eamonn explains.

"If for example, an owner of a tractor was selling it and he had all of the tractor's details on theplantfiles.com, a potential purchaser standing beside the machine with his smartphone could verify that the tractor he was buying was the one in question and verify the owner of the machine," Eamonn says.

"Before the potential buyer could view pictures only of the tractor and no other information, but through the website they can request the seller to verify that this is his tractor by entering a four digit pin that only the seller would know.

"If the seller was bogus and entered the code incorrectly, then an email or text would be sent to the registered owner of the tractor plus the coordinates from where the incorrect pin was entered."

Another scenario is if an individual's tractor was stolen and all of its details were on theplantfiles.com, then the company would notify gardai, PSNI and port authorities that the tractor was stolen and make all of its details available to them.

"What we have is real info in real time," says Eamonn.

He is establishing similar links with financial institutions and auctioneers, with the ultimate aim that nobody will be able to unwittingly buy a tractor that there was still finance owed on and technically still owned by the financial institution.

The cost of registering with theplantfiles.com is based on the value of what is being registered. The charge is €1 + VAT per €1,000 value of machine a year, up to a maximum of €50 + VAT for a machine valued at €50,000 or more.

So a trailer worth €2,000 would cost €2 + VAT, while a tractor of €85,000 would cost €50 + VAT on an annual basis.

At the time of going to press, theplantfiles.com was going through its final test mode.

You can register your details on www.theplantfiles.com or contact Eamonn directly at 0818 333 533/087 917 2221 or email him at info@theplantfiles.com.

Indo Farming



Top Stories