Sealed and Delivered
February 19th, 2005
Nebraska carrier designs device to protect against unnecessary cargo claims
By Sean Kelley
Tom Pirnie is the kind of guy who worries about bad things that can happen to his business and does something about them.
Last year, Pirnie, president of Grand Island Express, heard that one of his competitors lost $4,000 because the flimsy seal affixed to the competitor’s trailer broke between stops. So he enlisted the help of an inventive cousin to keep the same problem from occurring to the Grand Island, Neb.-based carrier, which employs 90 company drivers and 45 owner-operators.
“Most of the things we’ve learned in our business, we’ve learned by doing it wrong first,” Pirnie says. “The best learning experiences are the ones that happen to someone else.”
More than 50 percent of loads hauled by Grand Island Express is beef— much of it coming from a processing plant across the street from the carrier’s headquarters. The company hauls the meat west to neighboring Colorado and east to the Atlantic Seaboard.
The loads often require multiple drops, which is where problems can arise. When a load is first put on a trailer, the processing plant affixes a seal, a thin strip of numbered metal or plastic that is bound through the trailer’s hasp lock. When part of the load is delivered, the receiver affixes a new seal through the hasp and so on, until all the loads are delivered.
In the past, a broken seal simply meant that the receiver and driver would count units of beef, and if the count was accurate, everything was fine. But the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks — and fear that the food supply could become a target — changed all of that.
In 2003, a driver for one of Pirnie’s competitors arrived at his second receiver on a multi-stop run with a missing seal. Instead of counting the load and taking delivery, the receiver declared the load unfit for human consumpnon, and it was rendered.
“They were fearful the meat might have been tampered with,” Pirnie says. “They charged the carrier $4,000 for the load. I’m not even sure if that was legal, but I’d rather not have to pay myself.”
For the receiver, it didn’t matter who was at fault in the situation. The first receiver might never have affixed a seal. It could have broken in transit or it could have been snipped by a competitor. Since the driver is the only one who can open the lock, the driver controls access to the seal and can be held accountable for any problems.
“When we heard about the story, we asked ourselves what can we do to make it more difficult to tamper with a seal,” Pirnie says. The carrier that lost the load was lucky: The portion that was rendered was a partial shipment of cheap meat. If it had been a full load of high quality beef, the cost could have been much more substantial. “If it had been a full load of rib eyes — that’s way over a dollar a pound. A cargo claim like that would raise your rates.”
Grand Island Express trailers already feature a low-tech security device designed to prevent cargo theft — a small metal bar affixed with a bolt to the trailer frame that prevents the door from being opened. A large Allen wrench is required to remove the bar, and Pirnie says thieves typically don’t carry Allen wrenches in that dimension. The bar can he defeated, hut it takes time — something Pirnie says most thieves don’t have.
While adding security to the door was relatively easy, protecting the seal provided a greater challenge. The company had to develop a box to cover the seal and the hasp assembly and still resist efforts by a determined thief. The idea came from Pirnie’s cousin, Keith Pirnie. The carrier’s chief technician, Randy Kunze, produced a working model. The design had to work with cable seals as well as flat metal or plastic seals.
The group of would-be inventors spent time wandering through their customer’s yards looking at trailer models and seeing what the seal guard’s design required. After a couple of months of fiddling, the team had a prototype. They took it to a local manufacturer, who produced 50 seal guards. Pirnie passed theiii out to his drivers to experiment with them.
The staff also did its best to break into the locks. Pirnie took part in some of the
testing himself, slinging a heavy sledgehammer at the final product until he bent the pin so badly it nearly required a blowtorch to remove.
Pirnie says his drivers are trained to inspect seals and have never had a claim like the one that his competitor suffered. The new lock makes that job easier, in part, because receivers can’t break the seal without the driver removing the box.
“A receiver will say ‘I’ll just break the seal” Pirnie says. “My driver will say ‘Go ahead and try.’ This gives something additional for our drivers to do to make sure the seal is in place.”
The final hasp and seal cover consists of three parts:
“The exciting thing is that shippers and trucking companies will benefit from the invention,” Albrecht says. Transport Security has improved the lock’s design, making it more difficult to defeat.
“I’m not saying you can’t get in there, but it’s going to take tools and time,” Pirnie says. “With seals, you don’t know until you have a problem. We got a break in that it happened to someone else.”
Now with his innovation, Pirnie is hopeful the problem never happens to him.
Theft Prevention Necessities
February 14th, 2005
By John Albrecht, Vice President, Transport Security, Inc.
In the transportation industry, a strong security and loss prevention department is a necessity, not a luxury. Theft of cargo and equipment is estimated to cost $10 billion to $15 billion annually. Depending on your operating ratio, it takes $10 to $15 in increased revenue to make up for every dollar lost through theft.
Progressive corporations should be guided by a strong security and loss prevention program, rather than depending on a crisis management team to react after the crime has taken place.
An effective security and loss prevention program should include the following: employee screening, a loss reporting system, a reward program, physical security and law enforcement involvement.
Employee screening is an important aspect of a successful company. An employer should keep in mind that a stable and honest employee will have credible references from past co-workers and former employers.
Developing a thorough background investigation procedure can single out a less desirable applicant. Employers should ask for specific information, such as names and phone numbers of past employers. If the applicant cannot provide this information or any other facts requested on this form, he or she should not be considered for the job.
If the applicant skips a question such as “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” the company should not assume the answer was no.
It is necessary to educate all drivers of their responsibility to report any losses of cargo or equipment via a loss reporting system. Unreported small losses can quickly add up to substantial sums at year’s end, but by this time it is too late to take any action.
Drivers should be able to contact a company official 24 hours a day when theft occurs s’ that immediate action can be taken.
The development of a loss report form is important to obtain all pertinent information regarding a theft: date, time, location, license numbers of the tractor and trailer, the vehicle identification numbers of the tractor and trailer, the make and model of the tractor and trailer, a description of commodity hauled, driver report, police notification and any suspect. Quick and effective reporting will increase the chance of successful recovery of stolen property.
Reward programs that pay for information are very effective. These programs must be administered very carefully, however, and in for matmon guarded to give credibility. The program should include a toll-free telephone number that is dedicated to reporting fraud, theft or misconduct within the company.
To develop an effective security and loss prevention program, strong physical deterrents are essential, including king pin locks, seals, padlocks, rear door locks and steering locks. King pin locks protect trailers from theft while they are spotted at terminals or retail stores.
The use of numbered seals on shipments, including multi-drop loads, is strongly encouraged.
Padlocks and rear door locks are very important in the reduction of pilferage.
Fleets initiating a strong lock and seal program have drastically reduced cargo theft.
There are many organizations involved with security and loss prevention: American Society of Industrial Security, Safety and Loss Prevention Management Council of American Trucking Associations, International Association of Chiefs of Police and National Cargo Security Council. Also, law enforcement and transportation companies have started regional cargo theft task forces. These include Mid-West Cargo Security Council, Chicago; Eastern Regional Transportation Security Council, Mybrook, N.Y.; Western States Cargo Theft Association, Cypress. Calif.; Midsouth Cargo Security Council, Memphis, Tenn.; Southwest Transportation Security Council, Dallas; Southeast Transportation Security Council, Atlanta: and Florida Cargo Security Council, Miami.
The objectives of these organizations are to reduce theft, develop contacts, exchange theft reports and establish a liaison with law enforcement officials in the cities where your fleets haul freight.
Thefts can never be totally eliminated, but strong preventive measures are vital in combating theft and maintaining good profit levels.