Tips to Prevent Cargo Theft

Cargo theft has been (and still is) a big problem in the manufacturing, logistics, trucking, and truck insurance industries. So much so, that many manufacturers now include ‘theft allowance’ when pricing their products. Insurers have placed theft limitations in their policies to minimize the cost of cargo theft.

The high prevalence of cargo theft, coupled with the fact that many cases go unreported, makes it hard to quantify the amount of losses caused by cargo theft on an annual basis. However, data from the National Insurance Crime Bureau estimates the value of cargo and property stolen or damaged on the road every year to be around $35 billion.

Understandably, cases of cargo theft are higher during the holiday months, particularly in highly populated metro areas such as Los Angeles, Dallas, New York, and Miami.

Theft Methodologies:

Contrary to many beliefs. Cargo thieves are not mostly drug addicted derelicts, most thefts are actually conducted in very savvy ways. Some theft syndicates have even been known to work with maintenance, and dispatch staff to replace security features on trailer doors (such as the pin locks, padlocks, hinges etc) with easy access clones.

They, then send teams to follow the driver across their routes, sometimes even for days. When the driver leaves the trailer unattended for several hours, such as when having dinner, at a truck stop, or rest area, or even while sleeping at a local motel / hotel, the thieves then spring into action. The fact that they can easily open the doors, due to their prior ‘preparation’, means they won’t arouse any suspicion from onlookers during the process.

In many cases, theft rings will steal the power unit and trailer, or just unhook the trailer and attach it to their own unit. Quite often the equipment will be found, but the cargo will be missing.

Some Personnel Authentication Ideas Might Include:

  • Careful screening of all persons involved in the entire cargo handling chain – from the vendors, contractors, maintenance, loaders, and off-loaders. In other words, know whose handling the freight.Share shipping information with only those that will be involved in the shipment.
  • Requiring drivers to only stop when in a very secure locations (such as secure hotel parking), or when there are other truckers available to help guard over the cargo.
  • Using team drivers is also a deterrent to theft as there is always a driver in the truck.
  • Using multiple padlocks on all trucks, and trailers can also act as a deterrent.
  • Instructing drivers to only open trailers when loading or offloading.
  • For company drivers: A driver manual with specific instructions on loading, unloading, verifying the contents of the load, as well as when to stop, where to stop and what to do in case of a theft can be very helpful.
  • For owner operators: Using multiple padlocks, always staying with the truck during the delivery, verifying the contents of the load are all very helpful in deterring cargo theft.
  • For owner operators, and company drivers: Adding inexpensive camera equipment in the truck such as a GoPro can help deter, and, in case of theft help police and your insurance company in the investigation.

Evaluate and Update Operational Procedures. Some Recommendations Might Include;

  • Keeping records of all freight that stay in your yards or warehouses over any given night or extended period of time.
  • Keeping logs of container identification numbers, cargo details, and license plate numbers for all loaded the trailers.
  • Install original and tamper-proof locks on all trailer and container doors and ensure they are locked every evening.
  • Install surveillance cameras throughout the yard or warehouse so security teams, the police or insurance investigators can identify any suspicious movements.
  • Install small digital cameras such as a GoPro in each of the trucks.
  • If any loaded trailers are spending the night at the yard, ensure that someone will be watching over them at all times through the night.
  • A thorough inspection (either physically or via surveillance equipment) of the yard at varying times during the day and night.
  • Coordinate with shippers so your drivers or owner operators can deliver at certain times where the likelihood of theft while in transit maybe low, and they can be offloaded immediately.
  • Install tracking systems on trailers, containers, and in the packaging of sensitive cargo so you can keep an eye on them at all times while awaiting transit or in transit.
  • Yard and freight guards that confirm the contents, freight documentation and confirming security measures prior to departure of the freight can be very helpful.

Security Tips for Drivers. 

Over and beyond the company’s strategies, each driver or owner operator also has a role to play in keeping thieves away.

  • Installing inexpensive digital cameras inside the truck, even the trailers can be very helpful.
  • Drivers and owner operators can review the loading process to be sure that the documentation and the cargo that is being loaded match.
  • Wait until you’re on the road before rolling down the truck’s windows.
  • Use different routes and only stop when absolutely necessary. Otherwise wait until the delivery is done.
  • When possible, drive in a convoy of other cargo trucks to minimize the chances of hijacking.
  • Be very alert to any cars following you or driving at slow speeds in front of you.
  • Only stop in open, reputable, and well-lit spots, and don’t make a habit of stopping at the same places every time.

If you are ever hijacked, cooperate with the hijackers but still pay attention to what they tell each other, what they look like, what clothes they’re wearing, what direction they headed in after the hijack. This information may be of great help later on during the investigation process. If you are ever involved in a cargo theft or hijacking notify the police, and your dispatcher immediately. Always, cooperate fully in the investigation

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