Truck News


Everyone holds a key to anti-theft strategies

It is easy to understand why trucks and their cargo represent an attractive target for thieves. In addition to consolidating a large volume of goods in one spot, the products are already on wheels and...

It is easy to understand why trucks and their cargo represent an attractive target for thieves. In addition to consolidating a large volume of goods in one spot, the products are already on wheels and ready to travel.

The sad reality is that truck, trailer and cargo theft continues to be big business. According to the Ontario Trucking Association, North America’s related losses and claims add up to about $10 billion per year.

But by developing a theft-prevention policy with your insurance company, you can help to ensure that your fleet does not contribute to the statistics.

The recent theft of $140,000 of beef from a Montreal fleet yard illustrates the issues that can be overlooked. The yard had no fence or padlock, the trailer’s king pin was easily accessed, and there were no security guards in sight. The layout of the yard even allowed thieves to drive in, hook up to the load and drive out another gate that offered quick access to a nearby highway.

This fleet learned its lessons the hard way.

Today, the terminal is enclosed with a fence and gate, drivers are issued individual passes to a card-lock, and cameras monitor activities around the clock. The king pin on every dropped trailer is also well protected by a pin lock.

Technology can also play a role in the security of a high-value load. Modern GPS equipment, for example, offers dispatchers a valuable tool for tracking stolen loads. Coupled with a “geofencing” system, the technology can even sound an alarm whenever freight strays too far away from an identified route, while sensors can be used to flag changes in vehicle weight or opened doors.

As important as these physical tools can be, however, a theft prevention strategy also needs to include management practices. Job candidates should be required to incorporate a criminal background check, while recruiters should be wary of anyone who seems to shift employers every few months. And paperwork should be properly secured so that information is only available on a need-to-know basis.

Customers have a role to play in your theft-prevention efforts as well. While some shippers may think of signage on the trailer as a great marketing opportunity, it may also be advertising the contents of a high-value load.

Of course, some loads will represent bigger targets than others. Goods such as consumer electronics and alcohol can be easily resold by crooks, but some surprising cargo can represent a higher risk at specific times of the year. Meat, for example, is often targeted during holidays like Easter or Christmas, while aluminum and copper have recently become valued targets because of soaring commodity prices.

Any security personnel should be informed about the specific threats so they can increase their vigilance around individual loads. They should also be given a complete list of equipment that should be in the yard at any given time, so they can raise the alarm about any unusual activities or missing trailers.

The layout of a yard itself can help to discourage potential thieves if it is surrounded by a well-anchored fence that is at least six feet high, with access offered through a controlled gate. But the security efforts do not end at the home terminal – and information can be as powerful as the key to a lock.

Drivers need to be trained to protect details about their loads and destinations whenever they stop at a truck stop. The questions from a fellow driver may appear to be innocent enough, but these strangers may be probing for information that is needed to hijack a load. Equally, drivers should be sticking to well-lit and high-traffic areas of any parking area.

When loads are particularly valuable, drivers should be reporting to their dispatchers at regular intervals, and they should even know a simple code word that could be used in the event that a theft is in progress.

(Instead of having them memorize the phrase from a war movie, have them reference the name of a fictional dispatcher). After all, an effective anti-theft strategy will be designed to protect your employees as well as the loads they carry.

– This month’s expert is Jean Marie Gagnon. Jean Marie is the manager of Markel’s Safety and Training Services, Eastern Canada (Quebec and Atlantic Provinces), and has over 25 years of experience in safety, training, and management positions. Send your questions, feedback and comments about this column to Markel Safety and Training Services, a division of Markel Insurance Company of Canada, offers specialized courses, seminars and consulting to fleet owners, safety managers, trainers and drivers.

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