Simple Security Measures Can Deter Cargo Thieves

When it comes to cargo theft, thieves know what they want. Shipments of electronics and liquor have always been popular targets because the goods are easy to sell, and thefts of copper and aluminum increase with every surge in commodity prices.

A $45,000 load of aluminum goods can disappear forever once it crosses the scale in a scrap yard. It seems today thieves are able to turn almost any type of cargo into quick cash.

Recent increases in theft-related insurance claims prove that thieves are more than willing to take advantage of any opportunities that present themselves -and some opportunities are more apparent than others.

While most cargo thefts can be traced to poorly-secured yards, proactive fleets are using a number of initiatives to discourage thieves who would otherwise unload a trailer’s contents or even hook up to the king pin and drive away.

Since thieves tend to show little interest in empty trailers, one approach is to unload valuable freight that needs to be retained overnight or on a weekend. While it can take an hour to unload 44 skids into a secure warehouse, the move could protect $1 million in cargo.

Other efforts have focused on limiting access to the trailer contents, either through the use of high-quality padlocks or by dropping each pair of trailers so that the barn doors are pushed against each other or backed in close to a building to limit access to the doors.

Well-designed pin locks can present an effective deterrent of another sort.

Some models might shatter under the force of a tractor’s fifth wheel, but cone-shaped designs can keep king pins from aligning with the fifth wheel’s jaws.

And one of the best pin locks of all comes in the form of a coupled tractor, which presents yet one more barrier for a thief to overcome.

Technology has also presented a new generation of barriers that thieves want to avoid.

A growing selection of tracking devices powered by solar cells or batteries can be used to locate stolen loads or establish a “geofence” around the fleet yard, sending an alert to a manager’s cell phone as soon as equipment crosses the invisible barrier.

Visible fences aside, a number of the features required for the cross-border C-TPAT initiative can be used to secure any yard. Access through a gate can be limited by keypads, RF transponders, or personnel in the office. Proper lighting and video cameras, meanwhile, will help to identify any unwanted tractors that drive into the area.

Policies and procedures have a role to play in security efforts as well. Police and insurance providers alike have the best chance at tracking down a stolen shipment if they are informed about an incident as soon as possible. A load stolen on a Saturday morning and reported the following Monday will usually be long gone.

For the sake of personal safety, drivers should be discouraged from trying to stop a theft that’s in progress, but they can be coached to record information such as licence plate numbers or any other details that might help to identify the thief.

The security-minded policies do not end in the fleet yard, either. Drivers who are aware of their surroundings and watch for suspicious vehicles are less likely to face a hijacking in the middle of the night. Dispatchers can help by planning routes so that high-value loads do not need to be dropped off in a deserted yard, and by scheduling trips so that those hauling high-value cargo have the chance to travel together.

There will always be security in numbers.

Shippers have their own part to play in the process. Fleets can frustrate potential thieves by requiring drivers to keep moving during the first two hours after picking up a shipment.

Drivers who are expected to do that will simply need access to facilities such as washrooms or cafeterias before beginning a journey.

Even human resources personnel can play a role in security. While cross-border drivers need to offer criminal background checks to earn FAST cards, the information can be reviewed more often than the mandatory five-year cycles. New employees who work on cross-docks or in the operations centre may require background checks of their own.

In fact, everyone has a role to play in the security of the valuable cargo, largely by limiting access to information about contents that are inside the trailer in the first place.

It is all too easy for someone to overhear a discussion between two friends at a truck stop, and a bill of lading left on an exposed counter can be read by anyone.

Thieves need to steal information before they have any opportunity to steal the loads that they desire. A commitment to security begins by limiting their access in every possible way.

-This month’s expert is Dave Roth. Dave is the Ontario regional manager of safety and training services for Markel Insurance Company of Canada and has more than 20 years experience in managing safety and operations in the trucking industry. Markel Safety and Training Services, a division of Markel Insurance Company of Canada, offers specialized courses, seminars and consulting to fleet owners, safety managers, trainers and drivers. Markel is the country’s largest trucking insurer providing more than 50 years of continuous service to the transportation industry. Send your questions, feedback and comments about this column to read about more industry hot topics, visit Markel’s Web site at www.markel.caand click on the Articles & Essays section.

Truck News is Canada's leading trucking newspaper - news and information for trucking companies, owner/operators, truck drivers and logistics professionals working in the Canadian trucking industry.

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