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Focus on yard security will make sure nothing ‘falls off a truck’

You know cargo theft must be a problem in the trucking industry when stolen goods are described as something that “falls off a truck.” It might be more accurate to say some of the goods simply roll through the front gate. A 2011...


You know cargo theft must be a problem in the trucking industry when stolen goods are described as something that “falls off a truck.” It might be more accurate to say some of the goods simply roll through the front gate. A 2011 study on behalf of the Canadian Trucking Alliance – and sponsored in part by Northbridge Insurance – valued cargo theft as a $5-billion-a-year problem. And much of that cargo is on-board trailers stolen directly from fleet yards.

The threat hardly ends with high-value products like liquor, automotive parts, and video games. Thieves have recently been targeting everything from diapers to produce because the goods can be quickly divided, sold and consumed.

The ill-gotten gains often move into the black market before anyone receives a call about their abandoned, empty trailers sitting on a back road.

Still, it is possible to secure a fleet yard and send discouraged thieves searching for other targets. A well-maintained fence will be an important feature when protecting any site, but even that can be enhanced by limiting the number of entrances and exits, and including gates with electronic locks which open only with a key fob. Live security personnel or other fleet staff can check every driver in and out of the yard, and block any load that is not scheduled to leave.

Landscaping will make a difference on its own. A few well-constructed earthen berms or strategically placed rocks can keep thieves from cutting through the fence in a secluded area of a yard, driving through the opening, and coupling up to their trailer of choice.

And a few extra lights and security cameras around the yard can serve as both a deterrent and a crime-fighting tool. Even if a load is still targeted, a well-aimed camera will offer a clear view of every vehicle plate and driver’s face, while a 30-day recording can be used to spot any unusual activities that occurred before the cargo was actually stolen.

Trailers that must be parked on their own can be secured with products ranging from kingpin locks to electronic tracking technologies. Some options will just offer a bigger deterrent than others. For example, a poorly constructed kingpin lock might shatter under the force of a fifth wheel; cone-shaped designs can keep jaws from actually aligning with the pin.

But cargo thefts tend to be more than crimes of opportunity. Thieves who are looking for specific freight need to steal information long before they hook up to a trailer.

The details about a load can be shared innocently enough. Drivers have been known to brag about their cargo during lunches at a truck stop.  Inside a fleet office, the member of a contracted cleaning crew may thumb their way through the records dumped in a recycling bin rather than being carted away to a shredder.

Another member of the staff might take the opportunity to peek at the bills of lading that were stacked on a counter rather than being secured in a filing cabinet.

Once armed with the right information, thieves can focus their attention well beyond a fleet yard, whether the trailer is parked at a closed strip plaza or in the far reaches of a massive truck stop. Fleets can help to protect against these thefts by informing drivers about secure yards that are available along a planned route. Orientation programs also offer a great chance to inform new drivers about security protocols that should be followed at home and on the road.

Consider how something as simple as parking techniques can make a difference.

Trailers that are parked back to back, with the barn doors facing each other, will be harder to unload in a hurry. And a trailer coupled to a tractor will always be harder to steal than a unit with an exposed kingpin.

Dispatchers have their own role to play when protecting the freight. Rather than arranging for a high-value load to be picked up and stored in a fleet yard for several days, they can try to schedule a pick-up when the cargo actually needs to move.

Another option is to unload the contents of an unsealed trailer into a secure warehouse. Or maybe a consignee will accept the freight earlier than expected.

These may seem like small steps, but they can all play an important role in protecting the cargo under your care and control.

– This month’s expert is Evelyn Cartmill, risk services specialist, CHRP, CRM. Evelyn has served the trucking industry for over 15 years in the areas of human resources, safety and compliance. Northbridge Insurance is a leading Canadian commercial insurer built on the strength of four companies with a long-standing history in the marketplace and has been serving the trucking industry for more than 60 years. You can visit them at www.nbins.com.


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