Although you may not hear much about it on the evening news, according to the FBI, cargo theft is on the rise and represents a threat to both our economy and our national security. Over the past five years, criminals involved in this type of activity have become more sophisticated, and more violent, in their methods. Due to this uptick in criminal behavior, the price tag associated with cargo theft is increasing. In fact, the Major Theft Unit in the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division estimates that cargo theft costs U.S. businesses up to $30 billion a year. Such estimates may not present an accurate scope of the problem because businesses are often reluctant to report thefts out of concern for their reputations or because they fear insurance premiums will increase.
Although there is no magic bullet that guarantees you will never experience a cargo theft, there are steps trucking companies can take to reduce the risk.
- Fence the entire physical premises of lots to make entry difficult. There should also be closed-circuit cameras, alarm systems and guards who monitor the surveillance cameras.
- Place high-security locks on trailer doors and air-brake lines.
- Use GPS systems and other technology to track trucks and cargo.
- Check the driving records and criminal backgrounds of all new drivers as part of your pre-employment screening process.
- Work with your insurer to identify routes with a lowered possibility of cargo-theft.
- Require drivers to drive at least 4 hours before their first rest stop. If a thief was close behind, they may lose interest while waiting for the driver to stop.
- Ask drivers to notify their dispatcher prior to stopping. After they pull over, they should be sure their engines have been shut off so that waiting thieves can’t drive away easily while they are inside the rest stop.
- Develop reciprocal agreements with clients to allow your drivers to park loaded trucks at the clients’ secured facilities while en route. You can also establish this kind of agreement with other trucking companies.
- Place bills of lading in a secure location and designate a single person to control their distribution to the drivers. Bills of lading reveal details about what a truck is hauling. If a driver is working in collaboration with thieves, he can look at a bill of lading and tell thieves what cargo is being shipped, when it is due to leave, and the number of the trailer in which it will be packed.
- Never make a truck’s trailer a billboard for what is inside. While you may be promoting your products on the trailers to generate new business, you are also advertising the contents to cargo thieves.
Cargo theft may be a reality of the trucking industry, but you don’t have to assume that it is an inevitable cost of doing business. You can reduce your vulnerability if you follow these common sense precautions to make thieves work harder to steal your valuable freight.