How to minimize your exposure to cargo theft

by Silvy Wright

Last month, Ontario’s Peel Regional Police force received a report of a major cargo theft. The goods stolen? Seven loads of plastics – valued at $250,000 – bound for a local recycling plant. The thieves planned to ship the load to China, to be sold to that country’s burgeoning manufacturing industry. Since then, police have reported another two loads stolen in Peel, and yet another three in Montreal.

According to the Ontario Trucking Association, Canada’s trucking industry loses more than $1 billion each year to cargo theft, with Ontario accounting for up to half that amount. US cargo thefts account for an additional $15 billion per year. These numbers rise significantly when replacement costs, and the resulting higher insurance premiums are included.

In addition to lax security, police say easy access to cargo information is the primary reason for cargo thefts. A casual comment made by an unsuspecting driver at a truck stop could lead to a potential loss.

While theft rings have become increasingly sophisticated – with an extended network of dealers and warehouses at the ready to receive, store and move stolen cargo – a few simple steps can go a long way toward reducing your chances of becoming a victim of this crime:

Evaluate your current

security measures

As they say, cargo at rest is cargo at risk. Coordinate both pick-up and delivery times with your shippers wherever possible so as to minimize your load’s transit time.

Also invest in effective yard security measures and proper driver background checks. Are your security measures sufficient for what you haul and where you haul? Have you provided your drivers a list of secure yards they can access along their assigned route?

Document the value of your loads

Ensure your bills of lading accurately reflect your cargo’s value. Did your shipper explain the valuation of the cargo you are shipping on their behalf? Both parties must arrive at the same conclusion so that, in the event of a theft, expectations are clear for all involved. Having the proper paperwork – and training your drivers and operational staff to complete paperwork accurately – is key to improving both your client’s satisfaction levels and your chances of recovering the stolen cargo.

Work with your insurance broker to ensure you are adequately covered

Does your insurance adequately cover the value of your cargo? If you are contracted to haul one load of laptop computers, when your typical load is cardboard boxes, will your current insurance policy cover that trip? A trip transit endorsement allows you to increase your insurance coverage specifically for that one haul.

Also confirm that your insurance company covers your shipping contract obligations. While contracts may simplify transactions between you and your shippers, your insurance company must know and understand what agreements you have made. After all, it is often your insurance company’s claims team that delivers on these commitments.

With the right procedures in place, you can significantly diminish your exposure to cargo theft. However, should your company ever fall victim to this crime, three key procedures can improve your chances of recovery:

Report the event immediately to local police: Provide full details on the equipment involved, the time and place of the incident, the cargo stolen and your truck’s license plates.

Report the matter immediately to your insurance company: Include the information you provided to police. With this information, your insurance company will work with local police on your behalf to probe the matter.

Get your documentation in order: Your insurance company will also require a copy of your bill of lading, a commercial invoice and a load confirmation sheet. If you’re crossing the US border, have your customs documents ready as well.

Preventing cargo theft makes sense, no matter what you haul – even if your load is plastic bound for the local recycling plant. Because, no matter how small your cargo’s value may appear to be, someone may be plotting to steal it.

Markel Insurance Company of Canada is the country’s largest trucking insurer providing more than 50 years of continuous service to the transportation industry. Silvy Wright is president and CEO of Markel Insurance Company of Canada.

Have your say

This is a moderated forum. Comments will no longer be published unless they are accompanied by a first and last name and a verifiable email address. (Today's Trucking will not publish or share the email address.) Profane language and content deemed to be libelous, racist, or threatening in nature will not be published under any circumstances.