Let’s Talk Insurance: Common Sense on Cargo Theft Prevention

by Mark J. Ram

You’ve probably heard about the fancy new ultra-deluxe anti-theft device that goes “ping!” Or the latest mega-high-tech cargo protection wonder that traps thieves in an invisible shield with laser beams … available for only 20 easy payments of umpteen hundred a month! Who can afford this? Certainly not the average trucker who is struggling to stay afloat in these tough times. Don’t get me wrong.

There are some wonderful, fairly-priced crime prevention tools on the market. But in reality, you should not feel that becoming “007”equipped is the first or even main step in reducing cargo thefts. Action is needed, though.

Cargo theft is definitely on the upswing, both in Canada and the U.S. In fact, it amounts to an estimated $1 billion annual problem in this nation alone. And if you’ve ever had a tractor or trailer stolen, you know that it’s a pretty serious matter. The industry’s average cargo loss ratio these days is more than 100 per cent.Why the boom? First of all, there are a rising number of inside jobs and sophisticated cargo crooks weaving elaborate networks across the country. There’s also a higher volume of pricey goods being hauled by novice truckers who lack basic experience in theft prevention.

As obvious as it may sound, so many of the thefts we see could have been prevented by the most common sense practices.

Park smarter: You can have a fully decked trailer with bells, whistles and nuclear devices, but if you park it in a deserted lot, every siren can go off and it still won’t save your load. One basic rule of thumb is to park loads only in secured lots. That is: yards that are fenced in and gated with surveillance or with a guard house where you must present proper identification to come and go. Selecting a strategic parking space within the lot is also important. We’ve had cases where drivers have parked their trailers right up against a fence and someone on the other side just cuts through and breaks into the trailer. Where secured lots aren’t available, be extra sure to park in an open, brightly-lit space …and try not to leave your load unattended.

More thefts on weekends: Our internal theft statistics show that a lion’s share of incidents occur on the weekend – nearly 40 per cent on Saturday and Sunday and a whopping 75 per cent if you include Friday nights and Monday mornings. These are peak times when truckers are parking trailers in non-secured lots. It’s not surprising when you consider the growing popularity of Just-In-Time manufacturing. To save on warehousing costs, shippers are now demanding that truckers bring their loads to the factory just at the moment the goods need to be integrated into the production process. This often leaves trucking companies in a predicament. They are under contract to ensure delivery at the facility – say, at 5 p.m. on Friday – but no-one’s around to receive the load at that time. They are then forced to become a rolling warehouse over the weekend and park wherever they can – like in a plaza or gas station close to home. Thieves are prowling for easy prey like this. No guards, no security fences … it’s easy money.

Pre-arrange everything: At all costs, try to avoid the pitfalls of weekend warehousing. Be sure to pre-arrange everything with your shipper and ensure your driver’s arrival coincides precisely with that delivery time. When you warehouse over the weekend, remember, the shipper is getting a free ride. You’re the one who’s paying for warehousing costs and for the hugely increased risk you’re incurring because his man is not there to receive your driver. That said, a smart trucking operation will have a contingency plan. Your drivers should all be briefed on the locations of secure yards where they can safely store a load in case of a missed delivery late on a Friday afternoon.

Above all else, if a crime does occur, report it to your insurer immediately. Don’t try to be your own police investigator – even a delay of minutes can make a difference in finding your load or not.

We see incidents where truckers think they know where the load is and call us days after they conduct their own unsuccessful search. I try not to imagine what would happen if they actually turned a corner and found the stolen load, along with a couple of gun-toting criminals guarding it.

Your insurance company is equipped to professionally recover stolen vehicles and cargo.

– Mark J. Ram is president and CEO of Markel Insurance Company of Canada. He can be reached at letstalk@markel.ca


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.