BY MARK A. HOFMANN
Christmas is coming and thieves have already kicked off the cargo theft season, experts say.
The season means more high-value, high-demand goods are hitting the highways. That presents opportunities for cargo thieves, experts say.
Fortunately, risk managers, security managers and others responsible for cargo protection can take steps to increase the likelihood that shipments will arrive at their destinations intact, according to observers.
Discussing the general issue of cargo theft at the recent National Cargo Theft Summit in Washington, Kevin L. Perkins, the assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's criminal investigation division, estimated that cargo theft costs $30 billion annually.
Cargo theft involves an increasingly sophisticated criminal enterprise, often involving gangs from Latin America, Asia and the Caribbean, Mr. Perkins said. Cargo theft presents "much less risk than other forms of criminal activity," such as selling drugs, he said. Prison sentences typically are much shorter than they would be for other potentially very lucrative crimes, he said.
"It would make sense that the number of thefts would go up" as the holidays approach, said Joe Wehrle, president and CEO of the Des Plaines, Ill.-based National Insurance Crime Bureau. "Especially during the holiday season, why would you want to break into a store and steal a handful of TVs when you can get hundreds of them off of one load?" he said.
"When people think of Christmas, they think of toys," said Scott A. Cornell, national manager-special investigations group in Travelers Cos. Inc.'s Rochester, N.Y., office. "When we see the first load of video games or something related to video games, the toys are on the road and here we go."
Holiday cargo begins to move in September, Mr. Cornell said. There's more cargo than usual the rest of the year on the road and, equally important, the cargo tends to be high-demand items.
"That type of volume creates more targets for bad guys and more backlog for trucking companies and shippers," he said. Cargo has to be stored in secondary storage, such as trailers, before it's delivered, he said.
In addition, to deal with the increased volume, shippers may have to hire trucking companies they never have used before, said Mr. Cornell. As a result, they are not familiar with the truckers' security practices, he said. It's important for the shippers to talk with the trucking company's risk control manager and make clear what sort of security measures have to be implemented, he said.
"The thieves are out their doing their own Christmas shopping," Mr. Cornell said.
Regardless of the season, "if you take every theft that has occurred, especially in truck stops or warehouses, you're going to find that the employee or the driver had made some mistakes," said Capt. Tommy Bibb of the Marion County Sheriff's Office in Ocala, Fla.
An unattended and detached trailer is a particularly inviting target for thieves, Capt. Bibb said. "If you're going to leave the trailer unattended and detached, they need to have a good kingpin locking device," which goes over the yoke that attaches to the tractor, he said.
Quality is critical. "A cheap one won't do it," he said. Well-made kingpin locks could cost $100 each.
If a trucker pulls into a truck stop for a meal or shower, the driver should pull the rig straight in rather than back it in, Capt. Bibb said. "Park it where you can somehow keep an eye on it," he said, adding that most cargo thieves are very good at surveillance, watching drivers and waiting for the best opportunity to steal the cargo.
Travelers' Mr. Cornell offered similar advice. Loads should not be left unattended and unsecured, he said.
Risk managers need to review and reinforce security policy, he said. They need to make sure that drivers use the locking devices they have been provided as well as covert tracking devices, which ideally are placed within the cargo year-round, he said. He noted that some trucking companies rent the tracking devices during the high-volume holiday season.
"The biggest method of prevention is good policies and good enforcement of them," said Mr. Cornell. He advocated an "overall layered security approach" involving trained and vetted employees who are updated on policies and engaged in policies.
In addition, the risk manager or another manager needs to check to make sure that employees are following company policies, Mr. Cornell said.
Although not engaged in the making and shipping of holiday gifts, Johnson & Johnson nevertheless experiences an increase in the number and value of shipments at year's end, said Wayne Klokis, manager of the corporate risk management department. The New Brunswick, N.J.-based company's transit program falls into Mr. Klokis' bailiwick.
"We've have a pretty successful story in regard to our cargo thefts in general," said Mr. Klokis. In 2008, the company suffered a series of large pharmaceutical thefts, he said (BI, April 26).
But through a partnership with J&J's cargo insurer-London-based RSA Insurance Group P.L.C.-and internal security personnel, "we basically have had no thefts on the pharma side of the house" since enhanced security procedures were put in place in 2009, Mr. Klokis said.
He said J&J "tried to find the best of the best" of transporters to carry company products. This meant using GPS systems, having two drivers on shipments and even tailing shipments with security cars, Mr. Klokis said.
"Clearly when it comes to year-end, trying to get sales, it's critical. We undoubtedly see shipments and the value of the shipments increase, so we're on even higher alert at year-end to see that our shipments are protected," Mr. Klokis said. "As a result, our antenna is up to be on the watch against increased theft activity."
The same technology that simplifies cargo transport also makes theft easier.
BY AA&B SPECIAL REPORT
By Joe Tracy, Rich DeSimone and Scott Cornell
Technology has made moving cargo from Point A to Point B so much faster and easier that few people are nostalgic for the bygone era when shipping freight meant manhandling boxes and checking lading lists with a clipboard. Today, cargo is often containerized, micro chipped and seamlessly tracked from one shipper to its destination, across oceans and land masses.
Sometimes overlooked, however, is that the same technology that streamlines the process for shippers also has provided thieves with unprecedented opportunities to use technology for their ulterior motives. Containerization has made it easier for criminals to steal millions of dollars’ worth of goods at once. In a limited number of instances, satellite tracking capability has enabled hijackers to plan how to move in quickly when a load is most vulnerable.
To stay ahead of the thieves who target cargo, those who own the goods and those who take custody of them in transit need to be aware of crime trends and security innovations. These subjects are often far from their own areas of expertise, and they should look for assistance as needed. The independent insurance agent or broker who can connect them with the proper resources to help improve cargo security practices will provide a valuable service that strengthens customer relationships. The key is to take advantage of the liaisons that insurance carriers have formed with industry experts to combat cargo theft.
Whether the need is for inland marine or ocean marine coverage, the following information about trends and industry alliances can help agents become knowledgeable risk managers for their customers.
By the numbers
Walk into a local big-box store and the variety of goods gathered in one spot is a tangible reminder of how the movement of cargo affects our daily lives. Products may come from a different part of the state, across the country or around the world.
In a 2010 report on freight transportation, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation reported that freight exports totaled $16 trillion worldwide in 2008, the most recent year for which statistics are available. More than 200 countries shipped 13 percent of those goods—$2.1 trillion worth—to the U.S., with 55 percent arriving by sea, 20 percent by air and 25 percent over land. In the same year, the U.S. exported $1.3 trillion worth of goods to other countries.
The Journal of Commerce reports that about 250,000 U.S. companies are involved in importing or exporting goods. Hundreds of thousands more ship or receive cargo within the country.
Of all of the world’s countries, the U.S. has the most extensive network of infrastructure to move goods, according to the U.S. Dept. of Transportation. The network includes 4 million miles of public roads, 25,000 miles of navigable waterways, and 9,800 coastal and inland waterway facilities.
Because cargo theft can be reported in various ways, it’s hard to get a handle on exactly how prevalent it is. Although next year the FBI will begin gathering data as part of its Uniform Criminal Reporting system, the full story may still not emerge, as many haulers fail to report lost loads to avoid damaging their reputations. Currently, the impact of cargo theft in the U.S. is estimated as being between $15 billion and $30 billion annually.
Freight Watch International reports that thieves often target high-value loads, such as electronics (TVs, computers, cell phones) and pharmaceuticals. See chart. They also target goods that can be sold easily, such as food and clothing. Sometimes they are opportunistic, taking whatever they find and hoping they hit pay dirt. One California case involved a stolen truck trailer that was abandoned by the thieves when they realized it contained steam cleaner solution.
Even without a firm statistic on losses, the ripple effect on the economy is evident. When a container of goods en route to a store is stolen, the store does not have the goods available for sale, the producer must manufacture goods to resupply the store, the shipper loses business, the insurer pays a loss claim and consumers face higher prices to cover the hidden costs. In addition, the goods typically are sold outside of regular commerce at discounted rates, undercutting legitimate businesses and depriving governments of tax revenue.
Cargo theft clearly is a tremendous drain on the economy that needs to be fought at every level. By leveraging the alliances that insurers have created, independent insurance agents and brokers can provide their customers with the best defense against crime.
Make it tough for thieves
Because the conditions under which cargo are moved vary, inland marine and ocean marine coverage is designed to be flexible. While this is a strength when someone is insuring shipments that may move not only from country to country, but from train to truck to cargo ship, it also means that businesses need insurers that see issuing extensive coverage not as just a quick sale of a standardized product, but as a key part of the value they can offer. Cargo owners and shippers also benefit from their insurer’s assistance not just after the fact, when the cargo is missing and a claim is filed, but before a loss ever occurs.
This means independent insurance agents and brokers have a role to play that goes beyond finding the cut-rate premium, the lowest deductibles or the highest coverage limits. Agents can guide their customers not only to policies that fit their needs, but also to the insurers most likely to open the door to resources that can protect cargo. The following are insurance carrier services that provide high value to cargo owners and shippers.
Risk management expertise
Most insurance carriers offer some level of risk mitigation services. Some may provide handouts with general guidelines and tips for improving security; others may suggest outside vendors that sell security devices. The best value, however, is risk management advice that is customized to a customer’s specific circumstances. Working together, they can improve the culture of security that is so important to a business.
For example, a cargo owner or freight forwarder may need to improve his security practices and insist upon similar practices when deciding which trucking company used to haul goods for which he is liable. Has he checked the shipper’s reputation with other customers, its financial well-being and its safety history (which is largely provided on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Website)? Does he ask to see the trucking company’s security plan to make sure appropriate precautions are in place? Has he verified the trucking company’s insurance coverage for adequate limits? Or reviewed contracts for limitations?
A warehouse operator may benefit from a theft vulnerability assessment conducted by experienced cargo theft prevention advisors. The assessment can determine if adequate access controls exist at the loading docks, bays, doors and at the entrance to the parking area. Advice may include recommending camera systems with sufficient resolution to capture useable images, as well as placement so they cannot be easily disabled. Theft prevention advisors also can recommend procedures that ensure warehouse workers and truck drivers have separate responsibilities, which acts as a disincentive for criminal collaboration.
Trucking companies often operate on tight margins, which can make them leery of costly security measures. Working with an insurer’s risk management consultant means they can consider a range of service options and practices. These begin with cost-free practices such as "red zone policies" (driving 200-250 miles before a first stop to discourage thieves who follow trucks from the warehouse or port), include mid-price alternatives such as high-security locks and air cuff locks, and range up to sophisticated electronic tracking devices embedded in cargo containers.
Law enforcement relationships
The conventional wisdom about cargo theft is that the more time passes, the less likely it is that the cargo will be recovered. Unfortunately, law enforcement too often is overburdened and under-resourced to quickly tackle cases of cargo theft.
Therefore, it’s important to work with the right insurer. Keep in mind that not all investigative services are of the same quality. Some insurers simply outsource cases to vendors. Others may have in-house staff but are limited in their responses because of geography or lack of expertise in the logistics industry. Experienced cargo insurers that maintain strong investigative services capabilities recognize the importance of maintaining their clients’ reputations in executing a cargo shipment successfully. If a theft does take place, these high-quality investigation groups also are available to help their clients track down the stolen cargo.
The most effective investigative services come from insurers that have formed dedicated cargo theft investigation units and strong relationships with regional cargo theft task forces and law enforcement agencies over a wide range of jurisdictions. This helps them quickly connect to the right people with the most helpful information when a crime occurs. Investigative units typically have access to claims information that helps them identify common trends in crime, as well as "hot spots" where criminal enterprises may be operating.
Whether goods are moving from Chicago to New York or from Singapore to Los Angeles, having someone on the ground who knows about local conditions can be of vital assistance to cargo owners, shippers and purchasers. This ensures that insurers who have networks of contacts around the world are a valuable resource.
This may be particularly important overseas, where nontraditional modes of transportation—from donkey carts to baskets balanced on a person’s head—may form part of the chain of transit. Many insurance companies maintain worldwide networks of settling agents and claim correspondents who also can assist with loss prevention. A local settling agent will know where road hijackings are common, what kinds of goods are targeted and which haulers are more reliable.
For example, a shipment of raw cashmere from the interior of Mongolia can be brought to the U.S. by a number of different routes. A local claims correspondent knows the risks involved and can recommend a particular itinerary to avoid problems, such as routing the shipment over the Trans-Mongolian Railway, connecting to the Trans-Siberian Railway, on to a port in the Russian Far East, and finally by ocean vessel to the U.S.
Local experts are in a good position to know that expensive shoes are a target for thieves in Italy, while in the Far East high-tech cargoes are particularly vulnerable. Closer to home, locals can assess current conditions when goods travel through Mexico, where 10,000 cargo thefts occurred in 2009 at a cost to businesses of $9 billion, according to Mexico’s National Chamber of Cargo Transport.
In addition to providing insight about cargo safety and transit options, local contacts can be invaluable when goods need to be inspected for damage at faraway ports, or disputes arise that need to be settled in person.
The more often goods change hands to reach a destination, the more opportunities there are for things to go wrong, for coverage to have unexpected gaps, or for the transfer of risk to others to create a gray area on liability. Working with insurers that have strong underwriting expertise in cargo transit can help avert these problems.
For example, an exporter of wedding gowns from Italy had pieces brought in from various parts of the country to a warehouse near the Italian port for consolidation into the overseas shipment. When a trucker drove off the road, the wedding dresses en route to the consolidation facility were destroyed. Although many ocean marine policies normally would not cover such losses, in this case the policy had been written to include transit prior to the consolidation point.
In another example, a U.S. exporter sold a cargo destined for the Russian interior. As the insurer advised the exporter that trucks were frequently hijacked along the route from the port to the inland destination, the exporter was able to negotiate terms of sale so that ownership of the cargo changed hands after it reached the Russian port. As a result, the risk of hijacking within Russia was shifted to the purchaser, and the seller’s risk of loss was substantially reduced.
By relying on the expertise of insurance underwriters, those involved in shipping goods can arrange terms and conditions to their own advantage, shifting risk to others whenever possible. They also can control costs by setting deductibles and limits at levels they are comfortable with financially.
At the end of the day, the best cargo shippers, warehouse operators and logistics providers know they have to focus on security because their reputation and future business contracts depend on it. Cargo owners and cargo buyers want to use companies that reliably deliver and store their goods, not ones that are frequent targets for theft.
In addition, cargo handlers soon learn that crime has a long-term impact on their expenses. There is the immediate business disruption that a robbery causes, as well as future insurance premiums that typically are driven higher by loss claim records.
By helping their customers understand the resources that insurers provide, through both their expertise and partnerships, agents and brokers can play a key role in making sure cargo gets from Point A to Point B safely and securely.
Cargo Security: Industry, Law Enforcement Coordinate Efforts to Counter Criminals’ Growing Sophistication
This story appears in the Aug. 30 print edition of Transport Topics
By Mindy Long, Special to Transport Topics
With cargo theft on the rise, trucking companies such as Schneider National Inc. and Con-way Inc. are relying on the latest technology — as well as increased collaboration with security consultants, insurers, shippers and law enforcement — to fight criminals who have become more sophisticated.
“In the past, we saw more shopping where [thieves would] open up five or six boxes at a truck stop. Now we’re seeing a natural progression of what would be their business plan,” said Walt Fountain, director of enterprise security for Schneider National, Green Bay, Wis.
During the first six months of this year, cargo thefts have increased 5% over the same period of 2009, according to FreightWatch International USA, a consulting firm that focuses on security management.
Moreover, thieves are becoming more organized and actively targeting loads, resulting in multi-trailer thefts, higher losses and increased warehouse theft, the firm said in its Bi-Annual Cargo Theft Report.
For years, thieves have targeted electronics and pharmaceuticals, but they’re moving more into other commodities, security and insurance companies said.
Food and drinks were the most common items stolen in the first half of 2010, said FreightWatch, with U.S. headquarters in Austin, Texas.
Another security firm, LoJack SCI, Forney, Texas, said clothing and accessories, tobacco and alcohol, and housewares are among the most frequently stolen items.
“I tell my clients that anything you and I buy at a grocery store, a discount store or a flea market is something people want in this economy,” said Herbert Mayo, vice president of risk control for Lockton Cos., a national insurance broker based in Kansas City, Mo.
These days, some crooks are “more or less ordering specific products from thieves,” said Dan Burges, director of intelligence for FreightWatch. The thieves “then find out where the product is being moved from and conduct surveillance to determine which load they want.”
A large amount of information available online makes it easy for thieves to determine where products are distributed, he added. After finding the loads they want, thieves wait for drivers to make a mistake that will leave the load vulnerable.
Schneider National said it has instituted several protocols for its drivers to minimize risk, such as ensuring those assigned to high-value loads have enough service hours and fuel to travel at least 200 miles after the pickup. Drivers also talk with their managers and the customer service representatives to review the details of the load and ways to ensure a safe delivery, the company said.
Despite the increased losses nationally, Schneider National said it has cut freight thefts year-over-year since 2007, when thefts dropped 22%. Thefts dropped 31% in 2008 and 75% in 2009. Fountain attributes the fleet’s success, in part, to more communication between drivers and shippers.
To ensure it has the latest data, Schneider National said that it cooperates with private groups — including FreightWatch, LoJack SCI and CargoNet — that collect and disseminate theft data. That information helps the fleet stay on top of trends and high-risk areas.
Con-way, San Mateo, Calif., relies on a wide variety of technologies and an informed workforce to minimize its risks.
“We utilize everything from biometrics for access control, trailer tracking and locks,” said Curtis Shewchuk, senior director and chief security officer of global security for Con-way, “but a qualified and well-trained workforce that knows how to use those tools is the key.”
Con-way said it has weekly communications with all employees
to alert them to thefts. Drivers also undergo online training that Con-way updates based on theft trends, the company said. The fleet reported that it did not see an increase in cargo theft in 2009.
CargoNet, Jersey City, N.J., launched a national database earlier this year that is designed to get all parties on the same page by sharing theft data with shippers, law enforcement and insurers. The national insurer Chubb Corp., Warren, N.J., was one of the charter members of CargoNet and said it hopes to see a decrease in losses as a result of the coordinated effort.
“A national database will make it easier to spot cargo theft trends and develop effective loss prevention techniques,” said Pat Stoik, vice president of insurance underwriter Chubb & Son. The company is a subsidiary of Federal Insurance Co., which is a unit of Chubb Group of Insurance Cos.
“Any time you get a central touch point, it speeds the response, and that is critical in cargo theft. The longer the time period between the theft and the actual response, the less likely the recovery of the goods,” Stoik said.
Shipper LG Electronics USA Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J., also is working to cut its thefts by taking part in CargoNet’s database and is working closely with carriers, which can include reviewing their financial records and requiring driver training programs and annual background checks.
As a result, Robert Auld, LG’s manager of supply chain management security in the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism Enforcement and Appeal Process, said the company has seen a decline in year-over-year losses, despite an increase in the value of the goods it ships.
“It all begins with ensuring that your carriers have a well-rounded security program that they can share with you and can be audited over the course of the relationship,” Auld said.
Cargo-theft databases, however, have a major flaw. Boyd Stephenson, manager of security and cross-border operations for American Trucking Associations, said that shippers and fleets sometimes are reluctant to report losses because of the negative publicity they can generate.
The lack of reliable national cargo-theft statistics has made it hard to gauge accurately the crime’s perceived rate of growth. For example, Chubb’s insurance claims and data from its other sources reported 725 cargo thefts in 2009, up 6.6% from 680 in 2008, and up almost 23% from 592 cargo thefts recorded in 2007. FreightWatch, on the other hand, reports 866 incidents of cargo theft in 2009, up 13% from 767 in 2008 and 29% from 671 in 2007.
Although an accurate annual accounting of cargo theft currently is unavailable from the federal government, the FBI finished changes to the Uniform Crime Reporting database in
late July, so it can collect cargo-theft data.
Stephenson said he hopes adding cargo theft to the database will cause the FBI to pay more attention to the crime.
“They are the ones with the resources and the mandates to fight interstate crime,” he said.
Although the FBI is ready to collect data in the UCR, the bureau said state law enforcement agencies need to update their systems. FBI spokesman Stephen Fischer Jr. said it likely will take 18 to 24 months for local law enforcement agencies to modify their record management systems and complete additional training before reporting to the UCR. The reporting also is voluntary, Fischer said, so states are not required to participate.
Having a national repository of information could help the trucking industry obtain a more accurate accounting of cargo theft losses, which currently range from $15 billion to $85 billion, according to ATA.
“That is a $70 billion swing. That says to us that no one has good data,” Stephenson said.
Auld said LG is working on a program to redefine how the electronics company manages its lanes, commodities and values of loads.
“We will be integrating a routing decision model with our security attributes that will then assist in mitigating risk more efficiently than we do today,” he said.
Fleets have several high-tech options to help track loads. Installing the Global Positioning System on a trailer is still an effective technique, but savvy thieves are familiar with the technology and know to disable it or to unload the goods onto another trailer. Some carriers are embedding covert tracking devices in their loads.
“Now you’ve got powerful transmitters in small packages that you can stick into the loads in various places,” Stoik said. “The tracking devices are now smaller than a cell phone, and battery life and signal strength have improved.”
FreightWatch and Qualcomm Inc., a communications technology company based in San Diego, offer covert tracking technologies that allow customers to maintain a constant view of cargo while in transit.
Carriers can track individual pallets or entire trailer loads covertly. LoJack SCI offers cellular and radio-frequency trailer-tracking devices and 24/7 monitoring.
Companies also can use electronic seals that alert a fleet if a trailer has been opened without authorization. For high-valued loads, some of the companies hire a trail car to make sure the load is safely delivered or run team drivers to reduce a load’s downtime.
Another option for carriers, geofencing, creates a virtual fence around a load’s scheduled route.
“We can create a geo-corridor in any shape around any given route.” said Brian McLaughlin, chief operating officer of People-Net, Minnetonka, Minn. “If a load deviates from that route, we can send out a notification that can go to multiple points across the supply chain.”
PeopleNet, a provider of tracking technology, gives fleets the ability to shut down tractors remotely if a security breech occurs. The truck will slow down in 10-mph increments. However, less than 5% of PeopleNet’s clients use the feature, McLaughlin said.
By the end of August, Schneider National said it will have Qualcomm MPC200 in-cab communications systems on each of its units, which Fountain said could further decrease thefts.
“We will have the ability to tie the right information at the right time at the right place to get it to the driver,” Fountain said. The system will identify truck stops and drop yards that have had recent thefts, so drivers will know which locations to avoid, he added.
Not all theft deterrents have to be high tech. Simple steps, such as using a lock or backing a trailer up to a concrete barrier can help.
CargoNet is also using a “Neighborhood Watch approach” that gives drivers a phone number to call if they see something.
But cargo theft creates unique challenges for law enforcement because it often crosses several jurisdictions.
“Local law enforcement is dealing with a crime that happened to a company that isn’t in their jurisdiction, and the shipper isn’t in their jurisdiction,” Mayo said.
LoJack SCI has a large law-enforcement database that can help fleets find the necessary contacts when reporting a crime. CargoNet also works with law enforcement to improve response time.
“If a driver walks out of a truck stop on I-80 in Indiana and sees his truckload of widgets is stolen, he can run in and call CargoNet if his company is a member. CargoNet knows exactly who to call in law enforcement in the area,” Chubb’s Stoik said
September 1st, 2009
If you are an owner-operator, these guidelines from Western States Cargo Theft Association will help you protect your equipment. If you are a company owner who employs drivers, the following driver guidelines will help prevent the theft of company tractors and trailers.
Be suspicious of individuals asking you to stop as a result of an alleged traffic collision. If unsure, drive to a police station or busy location before stopping. Hijackers frequently use this ruse to get drivers to stop.
Take the bill of lading and/or other paperwork with you when you leave the truck to eat, sleep or use a restroom.
Be especially watchful immediately after picking up the load and just before delivery. The majority of armed hijackings occur within a few miles of the pickup or delivery point. Freeway on-ramps and off-ramps are particularly dangerous.
Stay with the trailer or container during loading or unloading to protect the property, prevent pilfering and observe the condition of the property being handled.
Implement a “no stop” policy for drivers picking up containers for local delivery.
Make sure each of your drivers has a 24-hour phone number for dispatch or management personnel that he/she can call in the event of an emergency.
Require drivers to check and use seals, padlocks and kingpin locks when the trailer is dropped.
Require drivers to keep all cargo compartment doors closed and locked when unit is loaded.
Require the driver to get a signed delivery receipt prior to leaving the delivery location.
Insist that drivers not take loaded units home or to any other location that is not secured.
Require that drivers park units in a reputable truckstop or secure yard when waiting for their delivery time. A number of motels in southern California are being targeted for tractor-trailer thefts and break-ins.
If you are hijacked, always and immediately do as instructed by the hijackers. Listen to what is being said and to the sounds around you as this may provide law enforcement with valuable information as to where the thieves have taken your truck and load.
If you are hijacked or you find that your load has been stolen, immediately notify police (dial 911) and then your 24-hour dispatcher or emergency contact.
You are law enforcement’s best witness. Try to provide them with descriptions of the hijacker(s)and the vehicle(s) they used.
Carry information on your person concerning the identification of the equipment you are driving. You will need license numbers, container and/or trailer numbers and descriptions. Law enforcement cannot make a stolen vehicle report or cargo theft report without this information.
By John Tabor
Corporate Security Director
National Retail Systems Inc.
In my former position as loss prevention executive for a major retailer, an important responsibility was designing security systems for store locations. My focus was always on the front of the store. I had a camera on each register, a camera on the entrance, several on the exit and one on the head cashiers station. I installed EAS systems and POS exception reporting equipment. Tens of thousands of dollars would be spent protecting my front end from thieves looking for any opportunity to pilfer the store.
Looking back, I believe I spent too much money and time in my attempt to thwart thieves that enter stores as legitimate shoppers. An attentive, well-staffed storefront can provide nearly all of the layers of protection needed. In contrast, my receiving area in those days had one camera on the receiving door. That’s it. I now know that was a mistake. Let me share with you why.
The Scope of the Problem
As security director for one of the nation’s largest providers of retail logistics services and a member of the Board of Directors for the International Cargo Security Council, I see the true scope of retail cargo crime. Industry estimates put the total loss from cargo theft over $30 billion annually. That’s billion with a “b”.
The truth is a lot of cargo theft is taking place in the rear of your stores. The thieves know the driver must get out of the tractor and knock on a receiving door. They force the driver to give up the load. Nine times out of 10 rear receiving areas are poorly lit and little camera coverage, making them ideal locations for hijacking.
Stockrooms are typically understaffed and poorly supervised. I remember my days as a door guard in my first job in the industry. When the delivery truck came I was to stand at the back door and make sure nothing was taken. I quickly found out there were several problems with this assignment. I got there after the seal was opened. The driver broke the seal, not management, thus eliminating our chance to make sure the load was intact upon delivery. I was not instructed to perform piece counts as the merchandise entered the building. If my LP boss was not there, I was under operations direct supervision. If they told me to go to the front end, that’s where I went.
Every item you fear disappearing from your storefront is brought in through the back. I now have a team of investigators that do covert surveillance on my drivers as well as “ride alongs” to review retail receiving areas. I must report not much has changed from 17 years ago when I stood guarding a receiving door. It seems the more things change, the more they remain the same.
In most large value thefts occurring at stores, there are two key components – a store employee and a driver. The employee allows access to the goods, the driver has the means to transport the stolen freight unnoticed. One key tool in combating this problem is the strict rotation of drivers through various delivery routes. This will ensure that the driver and store employee never have time in advance to set up a potential heist.
You should try to implement a procedure that the driver calls into his dispatcher and then his dispatcher contacts the store to notify them of his/her arrival. This will allow for an extra set of eyes while the driver makes his way in with the paperwork. Do not allow drivers to break seals no matter what the weather or circumstance, or to remain unattended in the receiving area. An unattended driver can steal thousands of dollars in merchandise in less than 60 seconds. We routinely see managers checking off a manifest sheet while the driver yells off carton counts. Do you expect the driver to tell you about the 2 cartons of iPods he just stole?
Implementing these simple changes in your receiving area does not require huge resources. It’s low hanging fruit that can make a big difference. Beyond the receiving area, security gets more complicated. Luckily, we have technology that can help us.
Theft Prevention Tactics
Background Checks. By now everyone must have an understanding on how necessary background checks are. The strict scrutiny of potential employees is critical to eliminating losses. The most important thing I have found is the necessity to run a criminal check in every county that a potential applicant has lived. Many times you will see carriers conduct a criminal check only in the county of current residence. This is done primarily to save money.
Instead we run a report showing every known address where a person has lived, and then we run a criminal check in each if those counties. Since beginning this program, the number of “hits” has nearly tripled. This is not wasted money, buys money well spent in protecting ours and our customers’ assets.
Do not underestimate the value of a good lock on the back of a loaded trailer. I do a very informal survey as I drive into work on the New Jersey Turnpike each morning. I find that almost 70 percent of loaded trailers have a seal, but no lock on their load. Imagine closing up one of your stores at night and not locking the door. I know you can’t imagine that. Why then would you allow someone carrying your stores merchandise to its final destination to do that exact thing? By strictly enforcing our lock policy, we have almost completely eliminated thefts in transit.
For years now, trucking companies have been able to tell you where the tractor that is pulling your merchandise is at any given time. That information proved useful in making sure that just in time shipments were in fact just in time. However this technology far too many times proved useless in the event of an in transit theft or hijacking for many reasons. The first thing a thief will do is attempt to disable the GPS unit, which he has learned how to do already in seconds. Furthermore, many thefts occur after the tractor is disconnected from the trailer and another power unit is attached to make sure that no other tracking devices can possibly be used.
When this happened your freight was lost – until we got tracking for our trailers. These systems, made by Terion, Qualcomm and other manufactures, give us the ability to track a trailers location without a tractor attached to it. Although far from commonplace in the industry as a whole, many carriers are outfitting their entire fleets with this technology. Ask your service provider about it. At NRS, we have recovered every trailer reported stolen that was equipped with this technology.
Partnering with Law Enforcement
Even when you have everything in place, you still will encounter problems. There will always be thieves. Thieves always come up with new ways to thwart technology and technology always has some percentage of failure. When this occurs, your relationships with law enforcement around the country will be your last chance for a successful recovery.
The following are two narratives of cases that were forwarded to me by my good friend Lieutenant John Antillion of the California Highway Patrol. For several years John served as the Sergeant of the California Theft Interdiction Program. This group is compiled of officers from several agencies whose only task is investigating cargo crimes.
We have had several investigations where the use of GPS technology was a
tremendous benefit. Here are two examples:
1. Investigators located a stolen tractor and loaded trailer (designer
clothing) in the city of Los Angeles. Investigators determined it was
equipped with GPS technology. The system afforded investigators the
ability to track the vehicles via the Internet. The system utilized
mapping software that utilized satellite photos and traditional street
maps. After watching the stolen vehicles for several hours, the
suspects returned and drove them from the area. The suspect in the
truck was assisted by additional suspects in a chase vehicle. The sole
purpose of the chase vehicle was to detect the presence of law
enforcement. Investigators, not wanting to be detected, trailed the
stolen vehicles for several blocks. They eventually lost sight of the
vehicles. The GPS system led investigators to a commercial complex in
the East Los Angeles Area. Unsure where the suspects were in the
complex, the satellite photo feature of the system was used. The
satellite photo helped investigators determine where the vehicles were
parked. This afforded investigators the opportunity to formulate a plan
to take the suspects into custody. Investigators executed the plan and
it worked flawlessly. Again, several suspects were arrested and the
stolen vehicles were recovered. The stolen cargo was also recovered.
2. Subsequent to the theft of a tractor and loaded trailer
(electronics) in the San Francisco Bay area, it was determined the
company had equipped their trailer with a high quality GPS tracking
system. Our investigators were able to locate the vehicles after they
were parked in a city several miles from the location of the theft.
Investigators determined the trailer was still loaded. A long-term
surveillance of the stolen vehicles was established due to the timing
of the theft and the number of stolen commercial vehicles recovered in
the same general area. Our experience indicated there was a high
probability the suspect(s) would return for the vehicles and high value
cargo. Eight days after the theft, the suspects returned to the
vehicles and moved them to a nearby warehouse. Investigators ultimately
arrested several suspects and recovered the stolen vehicles, the
electronics and six additional stolen cargoes.
Organized Cargo Theft Rings
We can’t keep every shipment safe from theft. Cargo theft is a nationwide issue with a significant impact on the U.S. economy. This is no small issue – crimes perpetrated by random street thugs and inexperienced thieves. Organized cargo theft rings exist everywhere across the country and especially around the major port cities. Serious criminal gangs haunt south Florida, the New York metropolitan area and southern California. In recent years, regional crime rings have sprung up in Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Atlanta and Oakland.
Johnand the CTIP crew are just one of many valuable contacts to have in the event of a stolen trailer. Cargo theft task forces are appearing all over the country. Miami Police have their Tomcats unit, New Jersey State Police, Memphis Police have the Cargo Cats also in California. It is critical to get to know these officers on a personal level so they have a more vested interest in getting your merchandise back.
There are several ways you can help. These task forces need bait merchandise for sting operations. Return goods that are going to be destroyed could be perfect for these types of operations.
They also need money to pay informants; these are one of the most quiet but critical components of task force success. I often pay for travel expenses for officers to attend industry related events.
My security team prides itself on its ability to move the most desirable freight in a safe and timely manner. This is not accomplished by luck. Several key components are built into our Corporate Security program. I would advise all retailers to check with their carrier partners to ensure they are complying with the following list.
10 Critical Components of Every Supply Chain
1. All drivers must pass a stringent background check, including criminal
2. All loaded trailers must be locked and sealed at all times
3. Any area where loaded trailers are kept must have secure fencing
4. All facility entrances must have CCTV systems recorded on a digital platform
5. Ask to see copies of their training program as it relates to the handling of your merchandise
6. Drivers must never take a load home
7. Your carrier needs to have someone dedicated to Security that you can contact and work with
8. Ask to see their list of Police contacts
9. Make sure ‘blind’ release numbers are used for dispatching loads
10. Your carrier must have several redundant GPS devices built into their equipment: tractors, trailers and even in-load package trackers for high value shipments
Based on our experience, we would like to share some things to remember when addressing supply chain security for your company.
Critical Strategy Components
Communication is critical.A critical component of any strategy against cargo theft is effective intelligence gathering and information sharing. In many cases, law enforcement will recover a vehicle with all of the contents stolen long before the theft is reported to local agencies. While there is a definite need for timely cargo theft information sharing between law enforcement agencies, you can help the process by promptly reporting thefts to enforcement officials.
Develop relationships with law enforcement in the areas where you operate. There are several multi-jurisdictional Cargo Theft task forces around the country. These members of law enforcement do nothing but investigate trailer load thefts. They know whom the thieves are and where they like to take their stolen bounty. Make it a point to know every one of these groups. Quick action and communication are the keys to successful recovery and stopping future crimes.
Don’t react passively to loss.After a theft has been committed, have it thoroughly investigated rather than simply filing a police report or insurance claim. Because many companies do not aggressively investigate, cargo thieves strike with little or no concern for being caught. In fact, crime rings often focus on the same companies, hitting them continuously until they are no longer easy targets.
Establish security compliance standards for you and your partners.Clarify your expectations. You want to be sure that your carriers are doing enough proactively and, equally important, will do the right thing if a theft occurs.
-Do they have the latest GPS technology and IT systems for tracking shipments?
-Are their facilities safe? How safe?
- Do they have the right personnel and processes in place to address cargo security?
Do not assume your shipments are safe in the hands of a third party. Make it your responsibility to ensure they are protecting your cargo the way you yourself want it done.
Commitment to Cargo Theft
With over 95% of my company’s workload based in the retail sector, I have no choice but to stay on top of all the latest trends in cargo theft.
I’m often asked by clients, “Why should I care so much about preventing thefts when I don’t own the merchandise until you deliver it?” The answer is because you, the retailer, stand to lose the most. You lose potential sales when the merchandise is sold on the black market in your neighborhoods. If the load happens to be “hot” ad freight, you lose customer loyalty when the items are not in stock. You lose when the stolen merchandise is used for fraudulent refunds in your store.
There are countless ways that you stand to lose from an unsecured supply chain. It behooves retail loss prevention departments to partner with their internal transportation departments, outside logistics contractors, security vendors and law enforcement to work to stop cargo thefts.
Cargo Theft is a huge enterprise. Every year, tens of billions of dollars are lost due to cargo theft. Industry estimates are as high as $60 billion a year in losses, not counting the indirect costs associated with theft, such as prices increasing due to higher insurance premiums, lost sales, and missed deliveries.
Law enforcement officials, however, believe losses are considerably higher. Cargo theft is not always categorized in the same way. Moreover, they figure that as much as 60% of cargo theft incidents go unreported.
In an effort to quantify just how much cargo is stolen from trucks, the FBI is in the process of adding a cargo-theft section to the Uniform Crime Reporting program that gathers local, state, and national crime statistics.
Food, consumer electronics, and clothing are the three most stolen cargoes, and thefts of these and other items occur most often during the weekend, found research by the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies.
Chubb’s statistical study of 3½ years (from January 2005 through June 2008) of cargo theft data indicates that truckstops and rest areas are the most targeted locations for cargo thefts, accounting for more than one-third of all incidents. Next are modal yards and unsecured locations, such as drop lots and motel and restaurant parking lots.
Among the steps businesses can take to help prevent cargo thefts:
Thoroughly screen prospective employees. Some cargo security experts maintain that a high percentage of cargothefts involve inside information or complicity.
Carefully select transportation partners and intermediaries. These companies have care, custody, and control of goods once they leave one’s premises until they reach their destination.
Establish a security culture within one’s company. Provide security training for employees, and educate truck drivers in hijack awareness and prevention.
Factor in security when determining shipment routing. Cargo thieves often “case” known shipping points (plants, warehouses, and distribution centers) and follow trucks as they depart, waiting for the drivers to stop so that they can seize the loads. Drivers shouldn’t be allowed to stop in the “red zone” (the first 200 miles/four hours from the starting point) or in known “hot spots.”
Incorporate countersurveillance into the duties of security guards, and have guards patrol away from perimeters.
Take advantage of technology. Vehicle and shipment tracking, vehicle immobilization, and advanced,high-technology security seals and high security locks.
Conduct periodic security audits. Operations and personnel change, and criminals are always harvesting fresh ideas and modifying previous techniques.
Parked straight as an arrow, the Cobalt blue tractor and scrubbed-clean white trailer raised few eyebrows among the 10 other trucks parked in one of Miami’s many pastel and palm tree-lined warehouse districts.
The trailer, however, was loaded with stolen electronics. It hadn’t moved in 14 hours and was being watched by a team of undercover police detectives.
“The driver’s still asleep,” said a detective sergeant, who wheeled an unmarked SUV past the parked rig that mid-September morning.
An estimated $25 billion to $30 billion in retail goods are stolen every year in the United States, with more than two-thirds stolen from commercial trucks, according to the National Cargo Security Council. Experts say a new wave of cargo theft rings, which operate more like small-scale mafia families than common street gangs, are responsible.
Many of the cargo thefts are investigated by Miami-Dade’s Tactical Operations Multi-Agency Cargo Anti-Theft Squad, also known as TOMCATS. Lieutenant Twan Uptgrow, commander of TOMCATS, said his investigators have linked at least one theft ring with terrorist groups outside the United States.
“Some of the buyers have ties to terrorist groups,” said Uptgrow.
Police say relatively low prosecution and very profitable rewards have fueled the growing crime. The right load can fetch $15 million to $20 million or more in goods, and first-time offenders risk little prison time compared to those convicted of violent or sex crimes.
When times are tough for workers, times are busier for thieves and police, Uptgrow said.
The white trailer pulled by the blue truck was at least the third scheduled operation of the week by Miami-Dade’s cargo theft squad.
“With the economy the way it is, we’re breaking records,” Uptgrow said.
Uptgrow was preparing to add more staff to his team when he spoke with Land Line early in the summer.
Miami – with one of the nation’s busiest ports – is a hub for stolen and counterfeit goods.
Television shows have showcased the city’s tropical warmth, art-deco urban architecture and international flavor.
The nuts and bolts of police work, however, reveal the city’s gritty side.
TOMCATS investigators tracked the stolen electronics load for 28 hours, poised to watch the driver’s every move.
Detectives had watched a team remove the cargo from the stolen trailer, take inventory, and place it in a new trailer before it was hooked onto the blue truck.
The task force was founded as a pilot project in 1993 with the help of former Florida Sens. Bob Graham and Connie Mack, and support from a then-Calvin Klein executive who was frustrated by increasingly expensive bottom-line losses from truck thefts.
“One of our goals is to prosecute on a federal level if we can,” Uptgrow said. “Everybody within the task force is sworn federally, and they have local and state powers.”
Most detectives work deep undercover, and the detective sergeant asked that his name and face not be published.
Miami-Dade has a backlog of applicants wanting to work for the unit, which is one of several regional cargo theft task forces in the U.S.
Unlike other Miami-Dade police officers, TOMCATS officers don jeans, tennis shoes and designer shirts, though they’re sheathed in bulletproof vests and holstered guns.
Officers frequently work undercover, and rarely disclose names or allow their faces to be shown.
“They’ve watched us as much as we watch them,” said the sergeant, an 18-year police veteran.
A unit called Cargo Cats operates out of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in California, and similar cargo crime investigation units in New York, New Jersey, Houston and Memphis, according to the FBI.
The cargo theft investigation units typically are headed up by the FBI, which partners with local police departments.
In Miami-Dade, however, the 22-member TOMCATS unit is a more collaborative effort between the county police and the FBI. Several Miami-Dade detectives, as well as a U.S. Customs agent, a criminal analyst, a U.S. DOT officer, one Florida Highway Patrol trooper and a detective from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office work jointly with FBI agents to investigate the crimes.
The partnership allows TOMCATS to share in investigations and arrests, rather than merely work as a local assisting agency.
The police crackdown on cargo theft, however, has been matched by criminal organizations with their own creativity.
“These groups are highly organized,” Uptgrow told Land Line. “For example, they can have a cargo theft group based out of south Florida; they will go to Kentucky, Texas, Georgia and other areas of the country to do surveillance on loads they want to take.
“They will rent vehicles in those areas, target locations to make thefts. They’re highly organized. They research it; they’ll know whether to pursue a load if it’s something they really want.”
The bad guys
A few minutes after 11 a.m., the blue truck’s driver awakes and starts stirring.
The sergeant leaves the area and lets other TOMCATS investigators do their job.
Truck cargo theft has often been associated with mafia or random thieves. TOMCATS officers say that in actuality many smaller groups have formed their own partnerships based more on making money than on traditional mafia hierarchy.
The theft rings often are described as “lateral” organizations that work together only through loosely based business relationships and less like traditional mafia families with established hierarchies, Uptgrow said. Their less formal approach makes it tougher to take them down than a traditional crime organization.
Many theft rings are composed of people with international connections. The groups are rarely larger than 25 members and are run by leaders who live in million-dollar homes and drive Land Rover SUVs among other high-dollar toys, police say.
Even though TOMCATS has seized everything from laptop computers to loads of dog food, organized theft rings mostly target specific loads of such valuables as electronics and pharmaceuticals, quickly moving the goods and selling products at 10 percent of retail cost.
The rings will fly their own drivers on commercial flights, or send them in rented cars, to track and later steal loads, Uptgrow said.
Earlier this year, TOMCATS stopped thieves who’d targeted a trailer with $17 million in computer chips.
“Those are the types of loads somebody targets,” Uptgrow said. “They know what they want to target.”
Many times, TOMCATS officers say, trailer thefts in the Midwest and southeastern U.S. are shipped out of the U.S. by container through the Port of Miami.
The rings now rapidly move stolen pallets from stolen trailers, sometimes taking only a few hours to steal and then fence the goods in the black market.
Recently, the gangs have begun efficiently separating pallets of stolen goods before they’re fenced – in the rings’ own version of LTL. Separating the stolen goods makes GPS-tracked loads harder to track, only adding to headaches police already face.
“It’s frustrating,” said the TOMCATS sergeant. “Every time we learn something they adapt.”
Earlier this summer, TOMCATS seized 48 pallets of Grey Goose vodka worth an estimated $1.2 million.
The sergeant said some theft rings will be caught after holding onto stolen goods too long.
Others will simply be caught by observant police.
Earlier this year, an officer spotted a large forklift sitting near a welding business and started investigating. His investigation led to the TOMCATS recovering 60,000 pounds of stolen marble.
But the billion-dollar industry of cargo crime also has its version of petty shoplifters.
As drivers and truck stops have dealt with increasing diesel theft, TOMCATS has seen a rapid increase in fuel theft among some local fuel delivery drivers.
The drivers will work with others to skim 200 or 300 gallons of fuel at a time, Uptgrow said, selling the fuel on their own.
Earlier this spring, TOMCATS stopped a black market fuel operation run out of a suspect’s backyard, in a residential neighborhood. The suspect had 15 large drums of fuel in his backyard. He pumped the fuel using electricity from a car battery and jumper cables.
“He had it rigged up to where just one match would blow up the entire neighborhood,” Uptgrow said. “If just one person had thrown a lit cigarette, it could have blown up the entire neighborhood.”
After an hour of patrolling one warehouse district surrounding the stolen electronics load, the TOMCATS sergeant took a cell phone call from an informant.
A stolen load of designer clothing was in the area.
Protecting your truck
Freightwatch Group is an international cargo security firm that specializes in theft prevention.
American cargo thieves rely mostly on nonviolent methods, the firm said in a company-issued paper in 2006. In Europe, however, cargo theft rings have become violent in response to increased theft prevention and enforcement, Freightwatch Group said.
“U.S. cargo theft is not likely to mimic Europe’s trend of violent cargo theft in the near term. U.S. distribution security practices are still weak and provide abundant opportunities for nonviolent thieves,” Freightwatch Group said. “However, as in Europe, increased awareness and new security practices could change the dynamic.”
Most truck hijackings occur within a few miles of the load’s pickup point, Uptgrow said.
“In some cases, freeway on and off-ramps have been particularly dangerous. They’ll climb up and force their way into the cab,” he said.
TOMCATS officers say they routinely notify large trucking companies that they’ve located a stolen trailer before the company is aware it’s missing.
Most loads have been stolen while a driver is away from the truck for dinner or on break, often while the truck is idling. Thieves simply drive off with the goods.
“It only takes these guys a minute,” said Uptgrow. “Since they’ve been following the load down the interstate, as soon as they see the opportunity they’ll go ahead and take it.”
TOMCATS officers advise truckers to plan ahead when possible and park in secure areas. It’s best to find rest stops and other spots where other truck drivers will see them. Watch for cars or vehicles following your truck when you leave the highway.
“Hijackers don’t like crowds. Don’t stop in deserted areas while waiting to make deliveries,” Uptgrow said. “Try to stop at reputable truck stops along the route, and maybe try not to stop at the same location each time.”
Team drivers also stand a much-improved chance of protecting their loads, he said. Company drivers working alone should have regular communication with their dispatchers.
TOMCATS urges truckers to call local police if they’re suspicious about another vehicle following them. Drivers pulled over by an unmarked police car should call 9-1-1 to verify.
“A few hijackings have occurred in which persons have pretended to be police officers in unmarked cars,” Uptgrow said. “Try to pull over in a well-lit area where someone else can witness what’s going on.”
TOMCATS remained tightlipped about what happened in the mid-September stolen electronics stakeout with the blue truck towing a white trailer, saying only the investigation is ongoing.
Investigations can take several months and sometimes longer as the unit tries to arrest every connectable cargo thief they can, tying worker bees to the king bees leading the theft rings.
“Check back in a few months,” Uptgrow said.
Any trucking companies or drivers who think they can’t be targeted are living a fantasy, said Uptgrow, who compared cargo theft to home burglaries.
Most home burglars, however, aren’t willing to share profits among 20 or more partners or willing to buy airline tickets and rental car fees to land a score.
“If they really want your load,” he said, “they’re going to get it.”
HARTFORD, Conn., Sep 08, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) — According to the National Cargo Security Council, cargo theft is estimated to account for up to $25 billion in direct merchandise losses each year. With more than 675,000 registered interstate motor carriers moving 65 percent of the freight in the United States, the opportunity for theft is at an all time high. To combat the problem of cargo theft for its customers, assist law enforcement organizations, and help keep retail costs down for the public, Travelers Inland, in partnership with the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), unveiled the Travelers Sting Trailer at the 2008 Chicago Midwest Cargo Theft Summit.
“The transportation industry is plagued by cargo theft. The cost of theft spreads across the entire economy, not just at the consumer level, but in terms of other serious illegal activities often funded by cargo theft,” said Dick Rowley, President, Travelers Inland. “By building the Travelers Sting Trailer, not only are we helping our customers keep their business moving by safeguarding their cargo, we are providing law enforcement organizations across the country with much needed resources to catch the thieves responsible for cargo theft.”
The Travelers Sting Trailer was built to provide the required evidence to aid in successful apprehensions of organized cargo theft rings. Travelers worked closely with the NICB and law enforcement organizations in the design and construction of the trailer.
“The NICB, as a member of the National Commercial Vehicle and Cargo Theft Task Force, recognizes the tremendous economic impact that this kind of criminal activity has on our nation’s businesses, consumers and insurance companies,” said Joe Wehrle, NICB President and Chief Executive Officer. “The use of sting trailers has dramatically reduced the incidents of cargo theft in those areas where they are deployed. Having the Travelers Sting Trailer extends a very successful application of technology into the commercial transport environment.”
The Travelers Sting Trailer can be viewed at the Chicago Midwest Cargo Theft Summit on September 8-9, 2008 from 8:30 a.m. through 4:30 p.m. CT. Scott Cornell, Travelers Specialty Investigations Group, will be available to answer questions on site and further explain why Travelers is committed to helping to eradicate cargo theft.
Travelers Inland brings together underwriting, engineering, claim and investigative professionals to help address the complex risk management and insurance needs of our customers, which may range from tailored insurance coverage and theft reduction strategies to timely claim settlements and even faster theft recoveries.
By Wally White, U.S. Xpress Enterprises, Inc.
Excuses or Reasons? Everyone has heard these when a load is stolen:“I only left it runnin’ for a few minutes to in and buy lottery tickets,” one driver might say.“I have always parked there and nobody ever stole my truck before,” another would offer.
“I had to leave it running ’cause it takes too long for it to heat up/cool off inside if I don’t, ” said another.
“But, I still have my extra key,” said a baffled driver, “how was I supposed to know they would break a window and drive off with the load?”
I am sure you have all heard, perhaps even BETTER” reasons” than these from a driver who has returned to his/her parking spot and noticed his/her keys don’t fit in the truck that is now occupying that space. In most cases, the driver is lucky because he/she is still able to call in the loss. The driver has suffered no more than the embarrassment likely faced when explaining to the recruiter of his/her NEXT prospective employer whey he/she is currently unemployed. Actually, these are the lucky drivers. As we all know, in some cases, drivers have been seriously injured or worse, when someone really wants what’s inside that truck or trailer. Technology is a great thing, but it doesn't work well if the driver fails to apply it and basically makes it totally ineffective. If the driver isn’t going to take the time to shut the truck off, take the keys and lock the doors, why would they take the time to apply Air Cuff Locks, Glad Hand Locks, and King Pin Locks etc.? Maybe it’s not a case of being lazy or in hurry, but a lack of knowledge on how to properly apply the technology. Don’t assume they already know about security technology and how to make it work. We beat drivers over the head with Safety programs and messages to make sure they drive safely, thereby protecting themselves and the motoring public, but how often do we remind them that personal, vehicle and cargo security are also very important? We need to get back to basics and keep reminding them that part of being a Professional Truck Driver is accepting the responsibility for their own personal Safety and Security , as well as the security of their equipment and cargo.Train them, train them and train them! There a lot of new folks in the truck divining community who may not be aware of many of the dangers lurking out there. Keep them informed. Use many good programs out there (Highway Watch, etc.) to give them tools to again protect themselves and others as well as equipment and cargo.
Wally White is Chairman of the Security Council’s Homeland Security Committee and Director of Safety and Regulatory Compliance at U.S. Xpress Enterprises Inc.
With $15-30 Billion in annual cargo theft in the United States, cargo crime is a serious problem for business and law enforcement. The loss of just one full truck load can cost a company anywhere from $12,000 to $5 Million. The seriousness of this problem for commerce in the United States has prompted the FBI to form cargo theft task forces in major cities including Memphis, Houston, Newark, New York, San Juan, and Miami. Unit Chief Eric B. Ives, who heads the Major Theft Unit in the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, says “Cargo theft is our number-one priority in Major Theft.”
How Cargo Thieves Operate
Cargo thieves in the United States typically target “over-the-road” trailers with high-value freight, monitoring truck stops, freight yards, and other areas where tractor-trailers frequently are left unattended. Thieves will identify a truck carrying millions of dollars worth of inventory, follow it to a truck stop, seize it and drive away. Visible GPS antennas on trailers or tractors are quickly and easily discarded, rendering this protection measure useless.
Stolen trailers either are emptied quickly of freight, or are parked and placed under counter-surveillance to watch for police response to a tracking signal. Once the thieves are assured the tractor-trailer is not equipped with a hidden tracking device, the vehicle is moved to a designated area nearby. One common technique is for thieves to move the stolen freight into a “clean” trailer as soon as possible via a back-to-back transfer. This operation has been completed for a full 53-foot load of consumer electronics in as little as 30 minutes. Other techniques include driving the entire stolen rig to a final destination (often painting over or peeling off company identification) and using a satellite warehouse in the vicinity of the theft location for storage of stolen property.
Why Covert Cargo Tracking Defeats Criminals
Given that cargo thieves know how to disable GPS antennas on trailers and tractors, and are capable of transferring stolen cargo so quickly to “clean” trailers, manufacturers must turn to other solutions to protect their cargo from theft. A highly effective solution is covert cargo tracking. Covert cargo trackers are small battery-powered devices that use assisted GPS to transmit location data. These trackers are so small that they can be completely concealed from criminal eyes. Assisted GPS technology ensures that the covert trackers can accurately transmit location information, even though they do not have view of the open sky. Even if cargo thieves transfer the load to a different trailer, they will still be caught because the trackers reveal the location of the actual cargo they are stealing.
Real-Life Recoveries Using Covert Cargo Tracking
During a 60-day period in 2006, three separate full truck loads (FTLs)—carrying a combined cargo wholesale value of nearly $5 Million—were stolen and recovered in less than two hours each incident. Covert cargo tracking with FSNtracks led law enforcement directly to the stolen loads where criminals were apprehended and cargo was recovered. Cargo was recovered so quickly, in fact, that each of these deliveries was still made on time.