Cargo Theft Prevention: How to Prepare
The good news regarding cargo theft - if there is good news about cargo theft - is the 32% drop in the number of reported cases compared to 2016. According to CargoNet, the large decline may be due to investigations successfully completed by law enforcement in 2016. However, at an average cost of $196,109 per incident in 2017 in the U.S. and Canada, cargo theft still poses a serious risk to carriers, particularly small ones with a fleet of 10 or fewer trucks. In instances where the theft includes not only cargo, but also the truck and/or trailer hauling it, the loss value is even greater since the carrier loses a revenue-producing asset.
According to CargoNet, food and beverage items were the most common commodities stolen in 2017, representing 22 percent of all cargo thefts. In addition, the firm's report showed that Fridays were the most common days for goods to be stolen. According to truckinginfo.com, 75% of recorded in-transit thefts are committed by stealing unwatched trailers. While carriers are covered by insurance policies that protect against theft losses, the best strategy is to practice prevention whenever possible.
Here are some simple ways to protect your load from would-be thieves while in transit:
- Park in a secure location. Given the truck parking shortage in most places around the country, this can be quite tricky. Generally, though, try to find space in a busy, well-lit area. If you need to leave your truck unattended, try for a spot where you can maintain a visual of your truck or within the visibility of any security cameras installed in the lot. Also, parking spaces that back up to a fence or wall can prevent thieves from easily accessing your rear trailer doors.
- Use locks. This probably seems like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to become complacent, or simply forget, to roll up the windows and lock the truck doors when you leave the cab. But not doing those two simple things could be the difference between deterring a thief from an easy grab and returning to find your truck, trailer and cargo all have disappeared. Likewise, locking the trailer doors, whether with a barrier seal or a sturdy padlock, may be enough of an impediment to thieves. Also, many insurance companies may require the use of locks on trailers as a prerequisite to issuing a policy.
- Incorporate tracking technology for cargo and container. If your budget allows, consider installing technologies such as GPS or RFID transmitters on your trailer and/or cargo. While not a deterrent, these technologies can help authorities locate your assets and cargo if your truck is targeted by thieves.
- Don’t discuss the details of your load contents or destination. While you might think the friendly guy you meet at the rest stop is just making polite conversation, he may actually be fishing for information about what you are hauling and where you are headed in an effort to set up a future cargo heist. The same applies to social media posts. If a thief can learn your name, it is usually pretty easy to find a matching social media profile with information on your schedule that is intended for family and friends.
- Keep on top of market trends. Although thieves are highly adaptable in the methods they use to target loads, they typically look for certain kinds of freight. High-value loads such as electronics and pharmaceuticals are often targeted for hijacking, as well as food products. While the last is relatively low value, it is cargo that can be easily resold, either in small quantities or in bulk. It’s also consumable, so the likelihood of the cargo being recovered is low. Theft rings also target locations where lots of freight is dropped for periods of time before being picked up. Southern California, Dallas and Atlanta are all busy hubs for freight movement and fertile ground for theft and hijacking.
- Call for help. If you suspect you are being followed or just sense something is amiss, alert someone to your situation. Since following someone is not a crime, law enforcement may not always be able to help, but your dispatch can stay on the line with you until you feel the situation is under control. They can call the authorities if things escalate and you are unable to do so. If you do find yourself and your load the victim of a theft or hijacking, remember no freight is worth risking your life. Don’t try to apprehend the criminals by yourself.
While there may not be a single, foolproof way to keep your load safe from theft, using preventative measures can make things difficult for a criminal who might hope for a quick “grab and go” with your freight. Make full use of the tools and resources available to you to stay safe and deliver your freight on time.