Tips on Preventing Cargo Theft this Holiday Season

While the third quarter experienced an 18% decrease in stolen goods when compared to the same period last year, cargo theft remains a large problem that costs the industry nearly $30 billion a year according to the FBI.  With the upcoming holiday season, we are quickly approaching some of the busiest retail days of the year, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which means an increase in shipping and a greater chance of thieves making out with truckloads of merchandise.  In fact, cargo theft incidents in the third quarter rose 24% compared to 2Q 2017, with the 4th quarter being considered the peak season for thieves with theft rising as much as 40% on holiday weekends. (1, 2)

Despite an increase in theft in the 3rd quarter, the average value per incident decreased to $117,137, demonstrating that thieves are not just seeking out high-valued goods.  In fact, building and industrial products were the most stolen commodity in the quarter, taking the lead over food/beverages and electronics, with an average loss value of $66,418 per incident.

But that doesn’t mean that food manufacturers should let up on security.  With Thanksgiving two weeks away, thieves will surely be targeting this industry which, unlike electronics that have serial numbers which can be traced, food is easily disposed of.

With cyber theft, fraudulent pick ups, driver theft, insider theft, double brokering, and increasingly tech savvy thieves, it is important to take measures to protect your cargo at all times.  Carrier Risk Solutions’ CEO Sam Tucker offers the below 12 simple and effective ways to prevent cargo theft:

1) Avoid having the truck stop within 250 to 300 miles of beginning the trip. Many times, cargo thieves will target a particular truck.  They will follow the truck and wait for the driver to stop for an extended period (food, shower, bathroom, etc.).  The brief separation between the driver and the truck offers criminals the perfect opportunity to sweep in and take the load.

2) To help achieve number 1, ensure that you or your driver is well rested, has enough hours of service remaining and has taken care of their basic human needs prior to beginning their trip.

3) Drivers must be aware of their surroundings at all times and this is especially true when discussing cargo theft prevention.  They must pay close attention to see if anyone may be following them.  When choosing where to park during extended trips, opt for areas where other trucks are that are well lit and that provide some natural opportunities for prevention like backing up close to an embankment or building, etc.  Doing this will provide some natural barriers to entry for the trailer while the activity will promote any suspicious activity being noted and/or reported more quickly.

4) Most cargo theft can be prevented for less than $100 per truck.  This is accomplished by using a heavy duty padlock on the rear door(s) of the trailer and an "Air Cuff" lock in the tractor.  The padlock discourages would be thieves from popping and shopping in the back of the truck while the air-cuff lock prevents the physical movement of the tractor by preventing the tractor and trailer brakes from being released.  The leading air cuff lock can be purchased for around $75.  Use the remaining $25 to purchase a hardened steel padlock with a protected shackle.  Many times cargo theft comes down to an ease of doing business for the criminals.  If you're truck appears to be well protected, they may pass up the chance to make you a statistic.

5)  Avoid dropping trailers or waiting for delivery in one of the "Hot Zone" areas mentioned above.  This is especially true around holidays and weekends as activity around the area will likely be at a minimum. 

6) Consider hiring extra security guards, especially around weekends and holiday periods.  Make sure that those guards are well screened and that your contract with the security company doesn't limit their liability in case of a cargo theft on their watch.

7) Be very clear about your expectations for the security guards.  Prohibit them from allowing their friends/family to visit them at work and ensure that they make regular but random checks throughout your lot despite the weather or temperature.  Consider using some monitoring programs to verify that checks are being made.

8) Make sure that all areas of your lot are well lit and can be seen by passing law enforcement officers.  Challenge any suspicious person(s) visiting your business or possibly conducting surveillance on your terminal or warehouse location.

9) Make local law enforcement friends of your business!  Invite them in for coffee and donuts (or whatever) once a month.  Talk with them about your operation and the kinds of activities that might look suspicious.

10) Don't skimp on locks and cameras for your terminal and lot.  Invest in high quality locks for all exterior windows and doors and spend some extra money on a serious camera system if you are going to purchase one.

11) Ensure that all locks are actually working and engaged when the terminal location is unoccupied and that your security system is operational and armed.  Some very smart thieves will "test" your security system for you by triggering your alarm system a few times prior to making their move in order to understand your response and that of local law enforcement.  This is especially true if you have warehousing and/or storage at your terminal location and even more so if you ship/receive high value goods.

12) Engineer your business to have fewer loads around holiday periods and try to avoid having pickups on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving with a Monday delivery.  If the goods aren't expected to arrive until Monday, potential thieves have a very nice head start on getting further away with the goods. Time is an enemy here.       

Click here to learn about Road Scholar Transport’s high security shipping and how we are keeping your freight safe during transport.