TORONTO, Ont. –A recently-formed Ontario Trucking Association committee is taking steps to battle back against cargo theft -a billion-dollar per year problem for the Canadian trucking industry.
Uwe Petroschke, president of Totalline Transport and chairman of the OTA’s Cargo Theft Committee, said he got involved because “I’m tired of getting my stuff stolen.”
He said trucking companies are often embarrassed to admit they’ve lost a load, and keep their cards close to their chest. But he hopes that by acknowledging the problem and sharing experiences and best practices, that carriers can put a dent in the rampant cargo theft problem that plagues the industry.
“I decided to put my neck out there and talk about the problems we were experiencing,” he said. “Cargo theft is no longer isolated to the police -they lack the staff. It has become our issue and we had to get involved to get things done.”
Mike Plante, a Peel Regional police officer focusing on fraud, agreed, noting there are only four police officers specializing in cargo theft in all of Canada.
“You, in the industry, are going to have to police yourselves,” he said during a seminar on cargo theft at the OTA’s annual convention.
So far the committee is still in its formative stages. It has developed a list of best practices for both shippers and carriers to reduce their risk of being victimized.
The biggest challenge is still to come, however, and that’s lobbying government to legislate harsher sentences for criminals convicted of cargo theft.
“Organized criminals have found a loophole in the system,” Petroschke said, noting the worst they can be charged with is theft over $5,000, which rarely carries a jail sentence. “The police will arrest the same guy 10-15 times and he hasn’t served a day in jail yet.”
To protect against cargo theft, Plante suggested developing an “onion security system,” with layer upon layer of security measures including: fenced yards; security cameras; and wheel and king pin locks to name a few.
“The bad guy cries more every time he peels away another layer,” joked Plante.
Petroschke said shippers can assist in protecting against cargo theft, by verifying the truck, trailer and driver all belong to the appropriate carrier before releasing a load. They should request identification from the driver and be wary of undecaled equipment, since cargo thieves often use plain white rental trucks.
Shippers should also label all their products. Quite often, the police will recover a load yet may not be able to trace it back to a carrier or shipper due to a lack of proper labeling.
If the shipper hasn’t labeled the freight, the carrier should take the time to label it in case it turns up in a criminal’s warehouse.
Trucking companies should be careful about releasing information such as their CVOR or DoT number, Petroschke said.
“Now, it’s popular for thieves to call a trucking company and ask for its CVOR, operating authority and insurance and (the carriers) just send it out,” he said. “That’s how they pretend to be you!”
Totalline staff have now been instructed to release such information only to pre-approved companies that are listed in its database.
“We don’t send out our documents anymore,” he said. “Everybody has to be approved and in our database or they don’t get our documents.”
Totalline has also begun using high-security seals, and Petroschke suggested assigning an individual – such as the gate keeper -to apply the seals.
Placing cameras around the yard and in the shipping office can also help discourage theft, or at least identify thieves once a load has been taken.
Petroschke also suggested carriers hire only FAST-approved drivers, since it’s difficult to obtain a FAST card if you’ve got skeletons in your closet. He also suggested stepping up, rather than relaxing, security on weekends, since that’s when most loads are stolen.
He also recommended placing empty trailers around the perimeter of the yard, so there’s another layer between loaded trailers and the outside world. •