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Big crime needs big trucks

During the recent conference hosted by the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada I was astounded to learn more about the extent to which trucking operations, even the best run operations, are exposed ...

During the recent conference hosted by the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada I was astounded to learn more about the extent to which trucking operations, even the best run operations, are exposed to infiltration by criminals.

I was of course aware that truck fleets are subject to theft and hijacking, particularly when carrying high value or easily saleable products.

And through our participation with Transport Canada on an assessment of risks to Canada’s infrastructure I know a little more about how terrorists pose threats to our country through the use of trucks to carry explosives, and other contraband.

But during the PMTC conference, a seminar entitled Trucks and Terrorism conducted by Const. Paul Webb of the Niagara Regional Police provided some eye-opening facts. The seminar reviewed a program that was developed by the RCMP and the United States DoT to train enforcement officers in what to look for when inspecting a commercial vehicle. In this case we’re not talking about a check of the brakes and the lights, but an inspection that could unveil contraband in many forms, hidden in creative ways.

He gave many illustrations of how truck equipment can be modified to create hiding places for drugs, guns, explosives, and people -all of which are smuggled across domestic or international borders every day. He talked about training officers to look for signs that a driver may not be telling the truth, or that a load had been tampered with, and what they should do when they find these situations.

Webb readily admitted that most officers are somewhat intimidated by big trucks, and when they do stop them, the officers don’t have enough training in what to look for; hence the development of this program to provide that training.

Of the one million or so law enforcement officers in North America, less than 2% are certified to perform an inspection on a commercial vehicle, according to Webb. His point was that the trucking community is a valuable and necessary partner that is in the best position to assist in the war on this criminal element.

As he correctly pointed out, professional drivers can readily see when something doesn’t look right and the police want those situations reported.

The training program, while designed primarily for enforcement officers, is also able to help fleet managers and dispatchers become aware of critical signs that will help them avoid having their fleets used inappropriately. Once armed with this training, Webb believes that those in the legitimate industry can be the eyes on the road, assisting enforcement groups with information about suspicious or unusual activity. Webb pointed out that professional fleet operators and drivers can be an enormous assistance in counteracting criminals.

Recently, a PMTC member provided tractor-trailer units for use in one of the training sessions, and the drivers stayed close at hand to answer questions from the officers -a very successful example of the industry working with enforcement groups.

I’m sure that most fleet operators believe their fleets are well monitored and controlled and therefore beyond the reach of criminals, but Webb pointed out just how easily fleets can be infiltrated. A disgruntled or even a careless employee can provide – intentionally or otherwise -all the information criminal groups need to target and then steal loaded equipment or even empty trailers to use on other jobs.

Casual conversation from employees about products hauled or yard security, for example, can lead directly to the theft of equipment and products.

Webb also showed a video demonstration of a trailer seal being opened in under a minute giving complete access to the trailer without the seal actually being broken.

In a case like this, a driver could be completely unaware that the load had been tampered with as he continues down the road. Freight could have been removed during a rest stop, or contraband added to the trailer to be retrieved later in the trip, with your truck providing the transportation. So, while you may think your fleet is beyond the reach of the criminal element, there is a very good chance that they are sizing it up right now.

To quote Const. Webb, “Big crime comes in big trucks,” so be aware.

-The Private Motor Truck Council is the only national association dedicated to the private trucking community. Your comments or questions can be addressed to trucks@

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