The estimated cost of cargo crime is staggering. Across Canada, losses amount to as much as $5 billion a year, most of which disappears along the corridor between Windsor and Montreal. Thefts in the Greater Toronto Area alone are valued as high as $500,000 a day.
Victimized fleets have seen how much the targets can vary. While some thieves seek out pricey consumer goods like home electronics, others pilfer consumable products that can be quickly sold and tough to trace. Pallets of stolen baby formula are unloaded at flea markets; metal products are shredded and sold as scrap; stolen vegetables are added to recipes in disreputable kitchens.
They are the types of losses that have led the Canadian Trucking Alliance and several partners to create Project Momentum, an awareness program which recently included a workshop led by Ontario Trucking Association chairman Jeff Bryan.
Every fleet has a vested interest in finding ways to thwart criminals before any cargo or equipment disappears. Insurance policies help to offset some losses, but this still leaves the price of deductibles, rising insurance premiums, and even income losses traced to customers who shift freight to competing fleets.
Targeted security plans can make a difference. Cargo thefts at Schneider National, for example, have dropped from 25 in 2006 to the eight reported last year.
“It’s all about knowing the ins and outs of the freight we’re moving, keeping our customers updated, and arming our drivers with exceptional training and information,” said Walter Fountain, director of safety and enterprise security. “We recently started work on designing a custom lock to keep loads even safer; we champion the idea of creating tailored security solutions that help keep customer freight safe and secure.”
Of course, safe and secure business practices are not limited to the industry’s largest fleets. They can be applied to every fleet yard, or embraced by anyone who works behind the wheel.
One way to minimize exposure to cargo thefts is to limit exposure to the cargo itself, scheduling pickups closer to the time when freight has to move, rather than parking loaded trailers for days on end. When freight does need to be stored, it can be held in a well-secured yard featuring a tall fence, gates with controlled access, and security teams who patrol the area at seemingly random intervals. Proper lighting will certainly scare away crooks who prefer to work in the shadows.
Barriers such as a few well-positioned rocks or other landscaping features will further discourage those who think they can simply cut through a fence and drive onto an otherwise-secluded area of the property.
Trucks and trailers can benefit from some extra support, too. Bolt seals and padlocks for a trailer’s barn doors are a good place to start, and these can be augmented with cone-shaped pin locks which make it difficult for a thief to simply hook up to a trailer and drive away. Parking equipment with barn doors facing one another will make it even tougher for thieves to unload freight onto a waiting trailer of their own. Still other aftermarket locks are available for air brake gladhands and the brake control valves on a truck’s dash.
If a crime does occur, the most valuable support tends to come in the form of information. Well-aimed security cameras pointed at a yard’s gate offer a clear view of licence plates and drivers alike, especially when they are supported with some extra lighting. Fleets which store these recorded videos for about 30 days at a time also have the chance to look for unusual activity in the days before the theft, possibly identifying accomplices in the crime or spotting gaps in security techniques that were supposed to protect the freight in the first place. Affordable GPS tracking devices attached to the trailers themselves can even help direct police to stolen equipment before any cargo is ever unloaded.
Every employee also plays a role in guarding information that can be used to target a particular shipment. Locked file cabinets, shredded documents, and drivers who keep details about their loads a closely guarded secret will all rob thieves of the vital details they can use. Recruiting teams, meanwhile, have the opportunity to identify internal threats by reviewing criminal background checks for every employee and calling any references to see exactly why someone left their previous employer.
It all helps to build a protective barrier that will protect your customers’ cargo and stop thieves in their tracks.
This month’s expert is David Goruk. David is a risk services specialist and has served the trucking industry for more than 25 years providing loss control and risk management services to the trucking industry. 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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