As statistics consistently show, cargo theft increases for the holiday season as freight sits for an extended period of time and, as we know, cargo at rest is cargo at risk. In the past 5 years, shipments during the Thanksgiving holiday were stolen at a rate of just under three a day, according to SensiGuard, which equates to being “51% higher than throughout the year,” with electronics and food/beverages being the greatest targets. (1) On top of that, facility thefts historically rise nearly 7% on the Thanksgiving weekend. Last year, California experienced a $293,000 theft when a truckload of televisions were stolen during the holiday period, while the year before, Florida got hit with the theft of a trailer full of spirits valued at nearly half a million dollars. (1) Last quarter, cargo theft increased 3% compared to 3Q 2018 with at least one notable theft exceeding $1 million! (2)
Cargo theft is nothing new to supply chain professionals as thieves continue to utilize new and adaptive ways to steal freight. Such techniques include the following:
The internet has been an immense tool for thieves to access the information needed to steal freight. From load boards displaying shipment information to company Facebook pages exhibiting driver names, right down to carrier websites containing insurance information and permits, thieves are able to replicate the documents needed to pick up loads, posing as carriers and drivers, forging documents, utilizing burner phones, and then taking off with the freight. Once stolen, counterfeit products become a large concern. As Scott Fletcher, the president and CEO of LocatorX, states, “Olive oil is one of the most widely counterfeited products in the world. When they counterfeit olive oil, they usually either substitute it with a completely different type of product – like peanut oil or sunflower oil. If you have a peanut allergy and you think you’re buying a certified olive oil product when it actually contains traces of peanuts, you might get sick.” (3)
3D-Printed Security Devices
Thieves are finding new ways to cover up the tampering of freight as well as its location and time of theft by investing in 3D scanners. These scanners, which can cost a mere few hundred dollars, are allowing thieves to duplicate near-perfect security device replicas such as cargo seals and locks/padlocks to appear as if they were not tampered with, taking as little as 10 minutes to create. (4)
Shippers are attempting to fight back against this means of theft by “placing and monitoring GPS devices in cargo, installing motion-activated cameras within vehicles and alternating the colors of ISO 17712 seals, issuing them in random order.” (4)
What is known as “burner” cell phone numbers (pre-paid phones) are given on documents and then discarded, as well as untraceable, once the shipment is picked up. (5)
Insider jobs are also very common in the trucking industry and come in many forms. For example, trucking company employees have been known to utilize what they know about a shipment, not to steal the freight themselves, but rather distribute their information to thieves in return for compensation. Drivers have also been known to participate in insider jobs, many staging their own hijackings, arranging to leave their trucks unattended at a specific time in which their accomplice then moves in, stealing the loaded truck in exchange for money.
Coinciding with insider jobs are those thefts that the drivers participate in without knowing they are doing so. Thieves will create a fake account as a broker and then hire a legitimate trucker to pick up the freight. Once loaded, the thief will call the trucker and direct him to another warehouse, have him unload the freight, and pay him for his service, thus stealing the cargo.(6)
Many tractor trailers that are on the road are very plain looking and easy to duplicate and that’s exactly what thieves are doing. Labeled “ghost trucks,” these tractor trailers look legit but turn out to be untraceable. This is where Road Scholar Transport’s awareness program comes into play. Who would steal (or duplicate) a bright red tractor trailer containing 65 roses in conjunction with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation? Or our 9/11 Rolling Memorial that contains the names of nearly 3,000 individuals who lost their lives as a result of the 9/11 events?
Those who feel that just because their freight has GPS tracking are protected in case anything should go wrong should think again. “As technology evolves, so does that of the criminal element,” states Trooper Brent Miller, director of communications for the Pennsylvania State Police. “The unit has charged cargo-theft suspects in possession of jamming devices used to block GPS signals and thwart tracking by law enforcement.” (7)
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 your 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. 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.
A multi-layered approach needs to be taken for the best protection from cargo theft. Here are some ways Road Scholar Transport is helping keep your high valued goods safe during transport:
*We are a 100% asset based carrier so you can be sure that a uniformed Road Scholar Transport representative who is constantly trained on the latest cargo theft threats is moving your freight.
*We’ve never suffered a full cargo loss in company history.
*Expedited services are available so that your product is not sitting on a dock for days.
*All shipment locations and temperature ranges are tracked and monitored real time via telematics. Road Scholar uses track, trace, and temperature monitoring solutions from Orbcomm to keep an electronic eye on freight.
*Geofencing capability-route and customer specific.
*24 x 7 dispatch and oversight.
*US customs approved Navalock-bolt cutter, sledgehammer and chisel proof. We use the Babaco TRUK-LOC V on high-security loads. A lock that CANNOT be shimmed, lost, cut, stolen, or forgotten.
*Dedicated use and teams.
*Electronic door monitoring providing e-mail alerting, online monitoring/reporting, on-demand GPS location, and complete coverage throughout North & Central America.
*Brightly colored and easily distinguishable awareness trucks.
*Like something from a Si-Fi film – the future is now with collision avoidance systems that help keep our trucks a safe distance from other vehicles and hazards.
*Rollover will no doubt damage your freight and can be a tragic event. Electronic stability controls help protect the fright and prevent the accident
Check out our high security transport page today.