Adam England was in the driving seat when police arrived as the rolling machine was being loaded onto the gang’s van.
Members of the public contacted police on July 31 last year when they spotted the men trying to steal the machine from the site where Killingbeck fire station is being built.
Leeds Crown Court heard the Transit van had its roof cut away so the machine could fit onto the back of the vehicle.
Wooden joists had also been fitted to allowed the machine to be loaded onto the getaway vehicle.
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England, 33, was arrested and admitted he had been approached by others who had offered him £50 to drive the van. The other men had managed to run off when police arrived.
England also admitted to police that he had been involved in the theft of a similar machine the previous day.
Louise Pryke said the construction firm who had leased the machine had suffered five other thefts in recent months.
The court heard England was released on bail after the incident and was involved in an horrific motorcycle accident a month later which has left him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He pleaded guilty to theft.
Anthony Sugare, mitigating, said England had agreed to take part in the offence at a time when he was in “a bad place” after losing his job and splitting up with his partner.
Mr Sugare said England was also using drugs and alcohol heavily.
He added: “When he first came to see me he said the best thing that could have happened to him was the accident.
“Despite the difficulties he has, he has changed his life for the good. This behaviour is unlikely to ever happen again.”
Mr Sugare said England had become a successful wheelchair basketball and rugby player and was involved in regular competition.
The solicitor told the court England had moved away from the Leeds area to avoid associating with people who had got him into trouble in the past.
England was given a 20 month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and made the subject of a curfew for four months.
Recorder Paul Isaacs told him: “There can be no doubt that between the commission of this offence and today you have suffered a life changing event and it is that that has enabled me to suspend the sentence of imprisonment.”