Extreme measures to fight cargo crime

by James Menzies

At a recent Private Motor Truck Council of Canada (PMTC) seminar on cargo crime, Ron Hartman, director of security solutions, outlined some extreme, even badass, methods fleets can adopt to fight back against cargo theft. During his presentation he went over all the usual suggestions, namely security cameras, perimeter fencing, seals and locks, signage, monitoring visitors on your premises and general vigilance. You’re probably already doing most of this.

But, according to Hartman, more carriers are now soliciting the help of security firms to take their cargo security efforts further. One method they’re employing is to go undercover within their own organization. Under the guise of a new hire, an investigator is embedded into the trucking company and looks for suspicious activity. Maybe an employee who’s always visiting areas he shouldn’t be, frequent visitors with no apparent purpose to be there, discussions about theft, low employee morale or other signs that could be indicative of unrest within the workforce.

Hartman notes “most crimes involve internal conspiracies” and advises carriers to look within when investigating cargo crime.

Another increasingly popular tactic is “breach testing,” again usually employed with the help of a security firm. The firm sends an investigator to a facility to try to breach its security. If the investigator is able to gain access to sensitive areas or obtain information about cargo and routing, the fleet then learns where it needs to tighten up its security protocols.

For drivers transporting high-value loads, certain additional rules should be in place, including a no-stop rule requiring them to travel at least 500 kms before stopping for food or fuel. They should only be fuelling and stopping at pre-approved locations and should stick to recommended routes.

Hartman suggested hiring an escort to covertly follow the truck and ensure all those rules are being adhered to. “We find a lot of cargo escorts happen with cross-border shipments,” he said.

Fleets should have a plan in place to respond to a theft before a load even goes missing. Equip drivers with a wallet-sized robbery procedure card so they know what to do if they’ve been relieved of a shipment in-transit. Make sure they know to look out for their personal safety first in the event of a hijacking and relinquish the load.

There should also be a policy in place to ensure drivers report lost or stolen personal effects such as jackets or wallets, which may contain important information about cargo or routing.

If, despite all these efforts, a load still goes missing, Hartman suggested looking into which employees had access to information about that specific load and its documents. “Make it a policy so no one feels targeted,” he suggests.

Cargo crime is estimated to be a $5-billion problem in Canada, but Hartman said it could in fact be much more severe, since many fleets are reticent to report thefts in fear of insurance premium increases, reputational damage and overall embarrassment over being had. While some of the methods he outlined at the seminar may seem extreme, it’s a problem that is only getting worse and that warrants some extreme measures.

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