MISSISSAUGA, ON— And hard as it might be to sweep a $5-billion loss under the rug, cargo crime often goes unreported, and thus, unpunished.
“Historically, carriers have been reluctant to report incidences of cargo theft for fear of public scrutiny, damages to corporate image or increased insurance premiums,” says David Bradley, president of the Canadian Trucking Alliance.
That’s one of the biggest challenges police face in fighting cargo crime because the longer it takes for the crime to be reported, the smaller the chances of catching the thieves and recovering the goods. Not only that, but if goods are recovered in warehouse raids, but they have not been reported stolen, the police simply don’t know where to return them.
Randeep Sandhu is the founder and president of Load Solutions Inc., a general freight carrier operating out of the south-central Ontario town of Puslinch. In 2008, Sandhu lost four trailers: a load of beef, a load of chicken, a load of Bacardi and a load of tires. Nothing was recovered.
“Our yard was gated in and we had cameras up and running. We had heard stories of this kind of thing happening, but we thought the gates and the security cameras would deter thieves. In hindsight, it’s not enough of a deterrent. Now, the yard is manned 24/7,” Sandhu says.
Yard security around the clock
One way to man a truck yard around the clock in a cost-effective way is with Birdseye Security’s live monitoring system. Today’s Trucking visited their Mississauga, ON-based offices and got a taste of what it’s like to be Big Brother.
In a windowless room hung an imposing, floor-to-ceiling, cinema-style television screen. Projected on it were live feeds from various security cameras mounted in the truck yard of one of Birdseye’s clients.
“It’s 24-hour surveillance, live,” explains Michael Nituda, risk management advisor with Hallmark Group Insurance and consultant with Birdseye.
“Birdseye can see everything and everyone in the yard at any given time. They can control gates to only open for authorized personnel, can control fuel pumps, anything you want.”
Drivers entering the yard flashed their ID badges at the screen so the gate would lift, giving them passage to the yard. We could see all the trucks and zoom in on any trailer.
“Is there anywhere to hide in that truck yard?” Today’s Trucking asked Nituda.
About 7,500 km to the east of where we were—in Serbia—a team of six people was watching the very same feed, and they’re controlling everything; lights, gates, you name it. They work in six-hour shifts and monitor the yard around the clock. If anything goes wrong, they can alert the authorities while the crime is still in progress.
“It’s harder to catch the bad guys after the crime, after reviewing the tape. As Birdseye’s agents are calling the police, the thief can hear that through the loudspeakers – “the threat is the guy in the olive suit at the northwest side of the parking lot; he’s cutting tags.’ He can hear it,” Nituda says.
And what’s more, it’s impossible to compromise someone half a world away.
“They’ve caught quite a few bad guys. They’ve even saved a life,” Nituda says. “One of Birdseye’s clients’ had a fire and the guard woke up with a fire truck already there; he almost burned.”
Nituda says insurance risk management has two parts: risk transference, so any risk that you can’t assume yourself, you pay another company to take for you – like an insurance company and risk control. Risk control is minimizing exposure, like Birdseye’s services, which reduce the risk of theft.
“The protocols are set by the customer so they can have whatever rules they need, Birdseye just enforces it. Even the language is up to them. If Birdseye’s agents see someone doing something they’re not supposed to they can say, “You in the olive suit, you’re trespassing, please remove yourself from the property,’” Nituda says.
But of course, they can also review the tapes later and give customers reports of what went on in the week as well.
Nituda says the surveillance service is cheaper than having a live security guard on-duty around the clock on your property here in Canada. The service costs $1.25 an hour or more depending on what the carrier needs.
“This is the secret sauce: Birdseye was looking for a country where they could outsource it to and were looking at a certain type of person: they had to be a university grad and had to be either police or military trained,” Nituda says.
That way, he explains, they’re trained to look for anything that’s suspicious: the way someone walks or anything that doesn’t make sense.
And they found an abundance of out-of work ex-military people in Serbia.
“Some of them have lost limbs or have disabilities and this is a good opportunity for them to work in a safe environment where they can provide for their families. It’s a win-win situation,” he says.
And they’re not only trained, but paid to catch stuff— 60 percent of their pay is from salary, the remainder is from bonuses, which they get if they catch stuff or receive positive feedback from customers.
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