To Protect and Deliver : Practical and easy-to-implement steps can help prevent cargo theft and mitigate risk for shippers
By Salvatore Marino
After the holidays have past, manufacturers' warehouses are packed to capacity with inventory as a result of the biggest shopping spree of the year. This is the season when product moving through the supply chain is the most vulnerable. But the reason is not that security efforts become lackadaisical. The risk is greater simply due to sheer volume. We are shipping more to meet consumer needs; therefore, cargo thieves have more chances to steal from us.
Despite rising security threats, you do not have to become a victim of cargo theft, during the holidays or at any other time of the year. You can successfully mitigate your company's cargo theft risk by taking two important steps:
Certain organizations within the logistics industry collect large amounts of data surrounding cargo theft incidents. They can provide your company with analytics, investigative support and predictive modeling to improve risk management within the supply chain.
Preventive analytics can help your company carefully plan the safest routes for your goods, from origin to destination. Historical cargo theft data can help your company determine the best routes to take, cities to travel through and truck stops to use. By doing some homework, your company can significantly reduce its risk of cargo theft by "thieves of opportunity," who tend to be somewhat territorial, operating along the same roads and around the same rest areas daily.
Before moving any cargo, select a suitable carrier. You should interview any carrier that you choose to move your company's cargo, and that carrier should be able to demonstrate adherence to industry security best practices, such as background investigations of its drivers.
In addition, each driver who works for a carrier that your company uses should be educated on how to prevent cargo theft, and in the event of a theft, what action to take. When hauling a load for your company, a driver should:
The carrier should agree not to subcontract any jobs surrounding your shipments. Historically, cargo thieves set up bogus companies and post low rates on load boards to "legally" acquire access to shipments. By vetting your carriers prior to shipment, you eliminate the risk of potentially handing over your inventory to thieves.
The physical security of a conveyance is critical. The shipment, which could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, travels on open roads while being looked after by only one or two people. Physical security devices such as seals and GPS tracking devices will not stop a determined cargo thief, but they will deter a thief who may see your cargo as a target while parked in a rest area.
Your company should evaluate the type of security seals used to keep cargo secure while it's on the road in between facilities. Keep in mind that all security seals are meant to be opened; therefore, they serve more as a deterrent than a barrier to entry. Procure only high-security barrier seals from a reputable manufacture whose product adheres to standards set forth by ISO/PAS 17712. On trailers with barn-style doors, use a 3/16" steel cable seal that is long enough to wrap around both locking bars and can be cinched tight. Using a cable seal will prevent the left door from being opened during transit without compromising the seal. On trailers with roll-up doors, a 3/8" steel bolt seal should be sufficient. Corporate security personnel, not a driver, should apply the seals at the out-gate of your facility. Seal numbers should be recorded, acknowledged by the driver and forwarded electronically to the in-gate personnel at the destination facility for examination upon arrival.
Tracking on the Road
You should consider GPS tracking as another layer of on-the-road security. It is essential that your company know where its loads are at all times both for security and logistics purposes. Your carrier may tell you that it monitors every shipment by a satellite tracking system mounted in or on the tractor. While this type of system has its merits, it is designed to track truck diagnostics, truck location and driver behavior, not the trailer or cargo inside the trailer. Also, one of the first things that cargo thieves do when stealing a load is to disable this type of device by covering, disconnecting or destroying the satellite antenna.
GPS tracking technology has advanced appreciably over the past few years. Devices were once large and cumbersome and required an antenna mounted on the outside of the conveyance. Because of the high price tag, GPS tracking was seen as a tool only for companies moving extremely valuable product; it was not used in the mainstream commercial market.
However, GPS tracking devices are no longer large and expensive, and they don't require external antennas. Now as small as a wireless phone, tracking devices can be covertly packed within a pallet, have battery capacity to last a month, and are "smart" enough to alert the end-user when and if there is a problem. GPS devices can be purchased for as little as $400 per device, with a software and data package (per device) starting at $60 per month. Some companies can average this cost to be approximately $100 per shipment.
There are numerous benefits to remote monitoring of your company's cargo. GPS tracking makes you aware of cargo that remains too long in one location (remember: "cargo at rest is cargo at risk"). You are alerted if the conveyance carrying your cargo is opened or deviates from a predetermined route. If cargo containing a GPS tracking device is stolen and your company is using a reputable monitoring service, the police in that jurisdiction can receive the exact location of the stolen cargo, which will increase the likelihood of recovery.
Before You Ship
When an approved carrier arrives at your facility to pick up a shipment, employees working the gate should inspect the vehicle and trailer and record important information about the driver, tractor and trailer. This information can be used later in the event of a theft.
The integrity of the tractor and trailer is important. The first thing to note when the conveyance arrives is the overall appearance of the tractor. Does the truck have large amounts of rust on the body? Does the tractor have fiberglass damage? Does the tractor need new tires? Does the tractor look overused or dilapidated? If your employees answer "yes" to any of these questions, do not allow the truck to haul your shipment. Rust, fiberglass damage and balding tires can indicate the truck has not been properly cared for. When a truck carrying your product breaks down, it could sit on the side of the road for several hours before its cargo is transferred to another truck to continue its trip. Once again, the adage applies: "Cargo at rest is cargo at risk".
Next, your gate staff should inspect the trailer. Is the roof of the trailer damaged? Is the entire floor intact? Do the doors close and seal properly? Are the trailer's tires in good condition? Are all the lights on the trailer functioning? If your gate staff answers "no" to any of these questions, send the driver away. Roof damage, floor damage and door issues could be an indication that the trailer has not been properly cared for, which could result in a breakdown. Also, it is not good practice to transport product inside trailers damaged by overuse, neglect or bridge collisions because of the possibility of weather damage.
Make sure the tractor's fuel tanks are full. Crime data show a significant amount of cargo thefts occur within 200 miles of the origin facility. The driver needs to be able to travel at least 200 miles before stopping for any reason, including refueling.
Before a driver leaves your facility your cargo, you need to collect and record important information, which must be kept in an easily accessible place (for example, on a corporate intranet or a shared network drive) in the event the load is stolen en route to the intended destination. Some of that documentation should also be given to the driver with explicit instructions to keep it on his or her person at all times.
The first information that needs to be collected concerns the driver. A photograph of every driver should be taken, as well as a scan of the driver's license. From the license, your staff should record the driver's name, date of birth, address, license number and license expiration date. Gate employees should also record each driver's company name, dispatcher number (if applicable) and personal mobile phone number. Drivers should receive a photocopy of their driver's license and a printout of all other records in the event that they are forced to exit the truck without their wallet.\
Information about the tractor and trailer also needs to be collected. You should photograph the tractor and trailer from the side and rear. Vehicle identification numbers, license plate numbers, year/make/model and a written description must be recorded. Again, a printout of this information should be given to the driver along with instructions in the event of a cargo theft incident.
By arming your carrier and your company with essential information about the driver, tractor and trailer, you significantly increase your chances of recovering cargo if it is stolen. Typically, when a trailer full of cargo is stolen from a truck stop, law enforcement officials need more details than they receive. There are thousands of "white trailers with writing on the side" operating daily on the interstates. Conversely, by immediately providing police with actual license plate numbers and full vehicle descriptions, they know exactly what to look for.
Finally, after a shipment has left the facility, work still needs to be done. You must catalog and store all records and photos about the driver and vehicle. Access to this folder must be quick and convenient in the event of a theft.
Your company also needs to have guidelines about how to react in the event of a cargo theft. If the on-call supply chain person receives a call from a driver at 11:30 p.m., that staffer should know exactly who to contact, how to transmit relevant data and how to initiate the recovery process (if applicable).
You can mitigate cargo theft risk using a few basic preventive measures: carrier selection, driver education, physical security and information recording. With careful planning and diligent management, your shipments will remain secure even during a busy retail season.
About the Author: Salvatore Marino is the director of business development for CargoNet. In this role, he fosters and manages strategic relationships with a focus in the supply chain arena. CargoNet is part of ISO Crime Analytics, a division of ISO that helps insurers and policyholders predict, plan for and respond to property crime.
With CSA on the minds of motor carrier executives and drivers, it is important to pay close attention to an equally important topic – cargo security. Cargo and equipment theft has had a profound impact on our supply chain, so much so that while the economy went downhill for most of us, business was up for cargo thieves! Companies that are not practicing effective security management are risking their current assets and future earnings to the profiteering criminals. Although there is no single solution to the problem, a variety of considerations can help you manage your security risks in the long haul.
The top states for cargo theft are California, Florida, Texas, Georgia, and New Jersey. Targeted products include electronics, food and beverages, clothing, pharmaceuticals and cigarettes. In 2009, an average of 72 cargo theft incidents per month was recorded by FreightWatch International, a security management and consulting firm. That is equivalent to one theft every 10 hours.
The worldwide cargo theft cost approaches a staggering $50 billion. It is the costliest crime in America, with costs exceeding all burglaries, robberies, cyber thefts, and identity thefts combined. Actual costs may be greater when the indirect costs are considered and because some businesses are reluctant to report thefts due to concern about reputation and insurance premiums. The average loss per motor carrier theft ranges from $200,000 - $350,000 (not including theft of vehicle equipment).
How Theft Occurs
A variety of strategies are employed by thieves, but the most common ploy is to seek out unattended trucks or trailers. Unattended trailers can be found at truck stops - where drivers might leave a truck to refuel, eat, or shower - and at truck terminals, warehouses, and manufacturing plants, where trailers might be staged and preloaded for delivery. Equipped with their own power units, the crooks know which carriers haul high value goods and can steal a trailer within one minute. A second strategy is to look for a disgruntled driver at a truck stop and offer to exchange the whole rig for money or fuel, and then the driver falsely reports the rig as stolen.
Finally, a third strategy involves organized gangs conducting surveillance of facilities. They may plant a person as an employee at the targeted company, and this person provides reconnaissance on facility layout and security. Details are provided on the whereabouts of a high-value load so it can be hijacked and stolen later. Fortunately, hijacking is rare, with most crimes involving non-violent truckload thefts during weekend hours. Soon after the trailer is stolen, the company decals are removed, painted over, or changed to conceal the identity so law enforcement has a difficult time locating it. The trailer may be taken somewhere and monitored for several days to ensure it is not being tracked by a hidden tracking device. During this time, they are also watching the trailer against theft by other cargo thieves! When ready, they will take the trailer to their destination for unloading and distribution of stolen contents.
Your Knowledge is Power
One challenge in crime-fighting is that everyone thinks it is the exclusive realm of law enforcement, but nothing could be further from the truth. Whether a crime involves burglary, assault, or vehicle theft, law enforcement relies on information for the investigation. This information can be gathered from evidence left at the scene as well as information gathered by victims and eyewitnesses before, during, and after the crime. Without information, the investigation becomes extremely difficult.
If you are not already concerned about cargo and equipment theft, now is the time because sooner or later you may become a victim, or you may be able to provide useful information about a theft that you can help resolve. Begin arming yourself with information by seeking guidance from a security professional, either from within your organization, from an outside consulting firm, or from your insurance agency or carrier. A professional will be able to provide you with a security evaluation along with recommendations for improvement. Contact your state trucking association to learn what efforts are underway with local law enforcement agencies.
By getting to know the law enforcement officers who are on the front lines against cargo theft, you can stay informed about local trends, subscribe to theft alerts, and maintain a steady stream of knowledge that will help protect your company. Motor carriers can give direct feedback to law enforcement about changing business practices, questionable vehicles and persons observed in the area, and concerns they might have. It is this information-sharing process, achieved by business working together with law enforcement that helps to increase recoveries of stolen cargo and deter future theft.
Identify an association you might like to join – one with both trucking and law enforcement members - and get involved. There are many to choose from, including your state’s cargo theft task force, ATA’s Supply Chain Security and Loss Prevention Council, the American Society for Industrial Security, CargoNet, National Insurance Crime Bureau, National Commercial Vehicle and Cargo Theft Prevention Task Force, and the Technology Asset Protection Association.
Can Technology Solve the Problem?
The three principles of cargo security are 1) Secure the truck, 2) Secure the facility, and 3) The less who know, the better. This being said, a layered approach is what works when implementing a security program, one that includes elements such as written procedures, good hiring practices, employee training, and the use of technology components for your facility and vehicles. Your facility can be fitted with perimeter fencing, lighting, locks, security system, surveillance system, limited access areas, and a protected computer network. Your drivers can make use of air cuff locks, kingpin locks, tamper detection devices, and tracking devices.
However, technology is merely an ingredient, not the ultimate solution, in the battle against theft. Relying on GPS truck tracking or hiding a tracking device inside the cargo does not prevent a theft. Finally, none of these tools are effective if they are not used consistently. The one Friday afternoon that someone decides not to use air cuff and kingpin locks will be the day you lose a $500,000 load – along with the entire rig!
The Bottom Line
Motor carriers have enough to deal with these days aside from CSA and fulfilling demanding business needs in a challenging economy. Cargo thieves do not care if you are a for-hire motor carrier, a private motor carrier, or an owner operator. If you have trucks and cargo, you have a theft risk, because anything worth delivering is worth stealing. Review your security practices and determine what is needed to manage your current assets and future earnings…and beat the crooks at their game!
Michael Nischan, CDS, CCSP
Risk Control Consultant
The McCart Group
By Ben Hall
They are multi-million dollar crimes that cost all of us money. Entire trucks, full of freight, stolen by well organized gangs.
Cargo thefts are on the rise here in Middle Tennessee and across the country.
A NewsChannel 5 investigation reveals weak penalties and big pay-offs for those involved only add to the growing problem.
Surveillance video from a Sumner County warehouse last October shows cargo thieves in action.
Professional burglars, wearing masks, dressed in black, disable the alarm system and take over the warehouse.
They load two stolen tractor trailers with more than $2 million of cigarettes.
"They actually cut a hole through the warehouse roof," said warehouse owner Crockett Parks.
The exclusive video obtained by NewsChannel5 Investigates shows that Parks' business was targeted by well organized thieves.
The burglars spent eight hours inside the warehouse and even used the company's own forklifts to load cigarettes onto the stolen tractor trailers.
"They'd done their homework," Parks said. "They'd been stalking us for a while I'm sure. They'd done this before."
Police say many of the organized gangs that commit these crimes are from South Florida, and they are targeting Middle Tennessee cargo more than ever.
In December, two trucks loaded with $750,000 of Jack Daniels were stolen from a secured lot on County Hospital Road.
Drivers crashed one of the trucks near Briley Parkway but got away with the other.
Just ten days later, thieves stole a truck containing $100,000 of clothes in South Nashville.
And police in La Vergne are still investigating the November robbery of two tractor trailers from a loading dock near a furniture store. One trailer was full of furniture.
"We're not focused on these crimes," said John McNamee, who tracks cargo thefts and is on the board of a task force out of Memphis that helps investigate the crimes.
He says many people are content to, "let the insurance company pay for it, but in essence we all pay for it through higher costs."
McNamee says many of the products stolen here are driven to Miami and sold overseas or on the black market. The FBI says profits from these crimes often fund large criminal organizations -- possibly even terrorism.
"It's easy for them to sell your products and the penalties are very minimal and the enforcement is very minimal," McNamee said.
Take the case of Ernesto Herrera from Miami. In 2007, Fairview Police caught him in a stolen truck with more than $640,000 of Dell Computers.
Police said Herrera followed the truck to the Flying J Truck Stop in Fairview, and waited for the driver to go inside.
"They would normally follow a truck and wait for the right moment to be able to take it," said former Fairview Police Detective J. R. Holt.
He investigated several cargo thefts before becoming Chief Deputy of the Dickson County Sheriff's Office.
Holt was thrilled they actually caught Herrera, but he couldn't believe Herrera's final sentence.
"I think anyone would say it's surprising he's not in jail," Holt said.
Despite being caught with more than a half million dollars in stolen computers, a Williamson County judge sentenced Herrera to just three years probation and sent him home to Florida.
"We have people right here in this county jail that are here for a lot less things than that, for months at a time," Holt said.
Part of the problem is local officials tend to treat cargo theft much like an auto theft.
"It's frustrating," said McNamee. "It's a slap on the wrist and they're back on the road."
But the reality is cargo thefts are hard to solve. Thieves can be hours down the interstate before people even know something is missing.
A day after the robbery at his warehouse Crockett Parks got some surprising news.
Police in Pennsylvania pulled over a truck for an illegal lane change. Inside, they discovered nearly a million dollars of Parks' stolen cigarettes.
The two men arrested were from Miami -- they face federal charges for crossing state lines. Parks says it's time to get tough on this type of crime.
"It's big time theft," Parks said. "I hope something happens to them and they stay locked up for a long time."
Right now, there are no assigned federal investigators in Middle Tennessee for these crimes. So they're almost always investigated by local police.
Parks is hoping local authorities will take the robbery of his warehouse seriously and prosecute along with the federal government. He hopes the prosecution is not for just stealing a truck, but for theft of more than $2 million.
Memphis already has a Cargo Security Council that has some federal authority to investigate thefts. Business and trucking company owners are pushing for a similar council here in Nashville.