The holidays are fast approaching, and that is a good thing. However, it is also time for our annual reminder that the Grinch is alive and well. The holidays mean that the bad guys are primed to target the unaware and the unprepared. Commercial trucks represent ripe targets for thieves, and it pays to take extra precautions during this time of increased risk.
Holidays and Increased Risks
Truckers are ambivalent about most holidays because of increased traffic and travel hassles. However, those special days also present headaches for cargo security. With the post-pandemic increases in shipping, most experts agree that 2022 will present new challenges.
CargoNet released a study prior to Memorial Day this year. It showed an average of 29 theft events over the period of 2017 to 2021 from the Thursday before to the Wednesday after Memorial Day. Each event averaged nearly $300,000 in losses, with five exceeding $1 million. While results for the past Memorial Day are not finalized, the group noticed an alarming increase in total thefts, particularly of electronic components and high-value items.
The upcoming Thanksgiving and December holidays represent an even greater threat this year. The American Trucking Association reports an increase in shipping volume for 2022 of more than 60 percent. This will peak in the coming weeks and will make busy and tired truckers an even more inviting target.
Sources reported that 2021 saw more than 185 thefts between December 23 and January 2, 2022. This resulted in more than $9 million in losses. The prime targets of the thieves included household goods, electronics, and food and drink. Experts are predicting that high levels of inflation will drive even more thefts this year of high-end goods, particularly meats, electronics, and televisions.
Taking Proactive Steps
The increased risks to cargo and truckers have the experts focused on a variety of preventative measures. These start at the warehouse level for two reasons. First, an analysis of recent robberies shows an increase in inside information as a critical factor in high-value thefts. Shortages of labor have resulted in hiring individuals who are part of organized gangs or susceptible to bribes and coercion. These inside sources provide crucial information on truck contents and cargo as well as delivery schedules and routes.
The second factor is that less experienced workers and short staff make warehouses more vulnerable to fraudulent pickups and brokering cargo shipments during the holidays.
Key Tips for Drivers
Scott Cornell is a crime and theft specialist working for the insurance company Travelers. His twenty-five years of experience have produced some key tips for drivers to help them avoid being the next theft statistic.
At the top of the list is what Cornell calls the “Red Zone” risk. He notes that as more sophisticated gangs target specific cargoes, they will sit outside warehouses and distribution centers to identify prime shipments. If drivers avoid any stops for the first 150 to 200 miles, they greatly minimize the risk of being followed by those thieves.
Awareness is another major tool for driver safety. Cornell advises that everyone in the chain should seek to avoid disclosure of what is in any given shipment, especially if it is part of the high-interest categories thieves are seeking. This also makes deliveries at specialty retailers and truck stops a favorite spot for thieves to “case” a potential target. As the old saying goes, loose lips can sink ships, or, in this case, lose a cargo.
A summary of key tips to always follow, especially during holiday driving, include:
- Stay alert for suspicious vehicles that appear outside distribution centers or truck stops and seem to follow your movements.
- Ensure you are using the best in high-security locks and tracking devices
- Park only in known, secure parking locations if possible.
It’s time to watch out for the gremlins and make it as difficult as possible for them to succeed in stealing your cargo.
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