The recent rough winter season – one of the coldest in the U.S. and resulting in the 10th largest snow cover in the Lower 48 states, dating to 1966, according to the Rutgers University Snow Lab – often scrambled much of the country’s freight transportation network. But such “supply chain disruptions” due to weather or other factors are also now being viewed as ripe targets of opportunity for cargo thieves.
“What we’re finding is that when the supply chain gets disrupted such as by a massive blizzard or say a port worker strike, a lot of transportation companies being doing things outside of their normal ‘safe’ practices due to excessive shipment backlogs, etc.,” Sam Rizitelli, national director for transportation at Travelers Inland Marine division, explained to Fleet Owner.
“During ‘disruptive’ events, there’s confusion and companies are often shorthanded – especially if it’s a weather event,” he added. “Things begin to back up, there’s chaos, and so the normal procedures for handling freight get put aside. That creates an opportunity we see more cargo thieves trying to exploit.”
Scott Cornell, director of the Specialty Investigations Group (SIG) within the Inland Marine division at Travelers, used a Hurricane-induced port closure to illustrate this issue.
“When the port closes, now you have cargo container ships offshore that can’t unload; cargo within the port than can’t get moved; and trucks inbound to the port parked at truck stops, rest areas, and other locations unable to deliver their shipments,” he said. “All this freight – particularly on the trucks – is now idle and exposed, often in unsecured locations. It’s got nowhere to go and thus creates a ‘buffet’ of cargo for thieves to choose from.”
Cornell added that once the storm passes and the port reopens, all of that delayed cargo must now get moved – and moved quickly. “Now all of this cargo has to get pushed into and out of the port at a faster rate, again leading to another ‘buffet’ style situation as the focus is on speed and not necessarily proper security procedures,” he explained.
The upshot, Rizitelli noted, is that carriers and shippers alike must learn never to lower their guard where cargo in transit is concerned – but that especially goes double when transportation networks get “unsettled” by weather and other disruptive events. “In a way, it’s like football: who owns the clock owns the game,” he explained.
Yet Walt Fountain, safety and enterprise security director for TL carrier Schneider National, stressed that cargo thieves are just taking advantage of the “vulnerabilities” presented by carriers and shippers alike.
“For example, if our industry continues to solicit bids for loads on open websites – and then broker loads with little or no vetting of the potential carrier – absolutely the thieves will continue to determine ways to misdirect legitimate freight operations to their advantage,” he explained.
“Should we be surprised when a thief takes advantage of a situation where [some] contract with an unknown, or unverified, company to move loads in a tight capacity market? I think not,” Fountain added. “Recognizing our own vulnerabilities and then committing to mitigating their risk is our approach to security and safety.”
By Adina Solomon on April 8, 2014
John Tabor, president of All States Locate, discussed the ways that companies can prevent cargo theft.
John Tabor, president of All States Locate, dared his audience at AirCargo 2014 in Orlando, Fla., to look at all the trucks driving on the road. Cargo theft is a problem because of the sheer availability of freight, Tabor said at the annual gathering of airfreight forwarders. “Everything touches a truck,” he said. “Every one of those is a target for thieves.”
Tabor, who worked as director of corporate security at National Retails Systems for 15 years, advised to think of trucks, which air cargo eventually travels on, as mobile stores.
“If you don’t invest in it, you’re going to end up getting burned,” Tabor said. Though companies assume police or insurance companies will look into cargo crimes, he said they typically do not. Most thefts occur at night, which is when rookie policemen work. There are also no mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines for when a person is caught, Tabor said.
He gave facts about cargo theft and ways to combat it:
- Don’t ship merchandise over the weekend. Thieves will take cargo then because they know that employees won’t notice the cargo gone until Monday.
- Know the trends of where theft happens and what thieves steal. Food and drinks, especially seafood, are the most stolen items in the U.S. That is partly because thieves can get rid of stolen food in any bodega in any city.
-Fictitious pickups are on the rise.
-Analyze which rest stops on a particular route have been hit by thieves, and tell drivers not to stop at those rest stops. “If you keep the tractor-trailer moving, it can’t be stolen,” Tabor said.
-Lock tractor-trailers. Sixty-five percent in the U.S. don’t have locks.
-Give a self-assessment to truck carriers about their security – and then visit them to see their security operations.
-Always get documentation, which will be needed in court if freight is stolen.
-Because criminal background checks only look at whatever county the person lives in now, look at the details of at their background checks.
-Make sure the property value of an employee’s residence fits with his salary.
- When building a cargo facility, ensure there is only one entrance/exit.
- Have five cameras in order to see every angle of a truck, especially the top in case of damage.
- Make sure the cargo facility has a generator. Thieves know that during a blackout or bad weather, police will be too busy to reach a cargo facility quickly. “You have to prepare for the worst,” Tabor said.
- Give guards a Segway, a personal, battery-powered vehicle. That way, guards tour the facility more and are less likely to fall asleep. “Try to think outside the box,” Tabor said.
- Turn on the facility’s lights. “You’ll never lose a load – you’ll make up for the electric bill,” Tabor said.
- When a truck comes to pick up cargo at a facility, ask for the driver’s ID and fingerprint. People can’t fake a print.
- Use a recognizable trailer, not just a white one, so people and policemen can better recognize the truck if it’s stolen. For example, Tabor mentioned using an orange trailer.
- Thieves always cut the GPS when stealing a truck, so hide the device.
- In U.S. Mid-Atlantic states, thieves have started cutting holes in warehouse doors because there are no alarm sensors there. Tabor predicted that this practice will spread to other states.
All of these methods can be defeated, Tabor said. They’re just tools of prevention. He said every company suffers truckload loss – the outcome depends on how that company reacts. “All you’re trying to do is add layers,” he said. “Not one person here can solve this problem. It’s a team.”
When it comes to cargo theft in the U.S., certain areas of the country – as well as certain types of goods – are attractive to the sticky fingers of criminals.
“Generally speaking, the Southeast, South and West have seen more incidents of cargo theft, though we have [cargo theft] cases all around the nation,” Frank Scafidi, director of public affairs for the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), told Fleet Owner.
“Why thieves target certain areas is more a function of perhaps less-traveled areas or more lucrative loads traversing certain corridors or routes in the nation,” he explained. “But warehouses are targets also and, in those instances, it is definitely the product that defines the crime. Among the most popular loads for theft are electronics – cell phones, computers – clothing, food and pharmaceuticals.”
According to research firm FreightWatch, some 951 cargo thefts throughout the U.S. in 2013, which is the same as in 2012 – a number, however, that’s the highest level of theft incidents on record. And although the number of cargo thefts has remained steady, the threat continues to grow in the U.S. due to increased organization and innovation on the part of cargo thieves, the company said.
Overall, the U.S. is ranked as high threat level for cargo thefts on the FreightWatch five-point risk scale, which ascends from low to moderate, elevated, high and, finally, to severe.
Some of the more notable trends in cargo theft identified by the firm are:
“Thieves seem to finding and exploiting the volume and ease associated with consumable products – beverages, foodstuffs, detergent, etc.,” Fountain added. “It is very hard to distinguish stolen goods from legitimate goods in these categories, and often, the products are consumed by the time law enforcement gets a lead on their whereabouts – and it is hard to prosecute a thief when the evidence was eaten last week.”
He also pointed out that one of the real challenges in combating cargo theft is shrinking law enforcement budgets and resources.
“Let’s face it – cargo theft doesn’t compete well for resources versus crimes against persons,” Fountain noted. “Even if the cargo thieves may be using their ‘profits’ to finance other criminal behavior, the nexus is difficult to prove.”
From that perspective, he believes trucking’s best alternative to dwindling resources is a more robust sharing of information not only with law enforcement but among fellow carriers, shippers, and consignees alike.
“Illuminating the threat tactics provides us a better chance to combat the thieves,” Fountain explained. “A company shouldn’t have to personally suffer every hit in order to understand the threat environment. There should not be industry competition in the areas of security and safety. Industry improvement in these areas is in everyone’s best interests.”
By Mishele Wright firstname.lastname@example.org
A Florida man is facing charges in connection to the theft of a semi truck and trailer at a Marion truck stop earlier this month.
According to information provided to Marion Police from Lex18 in Kentucky, 50-year-old Eduardo Hernandez of Hialeah, Fla. was arrested by Kentucky State Police on two counts of receiving stolen property over $10,000 and one count of running a scale installation. He is being held in a jail in Kentucky.
Original News Release
A truck driver pleaded guilty in federal court on Wednesday for his role in a cargo theft ring that included a theft in West Plains, Mo.
Michael Lee Sherley, of Memphis, pleaded guilty in federal court in Springfield, Mo. to theft of an interstate shipment. He was employed by Nu World Trucking, a Memphis trucking company, from July 2012 until his arrest on May 12, 2013.
Sherley was part of a cargo theft ring that used the resources of Nu World Trucking to steal cargo in various states. They did so by “bob-tailing” through truck stops and service stations located on or near interstate highways, looking for semi-trailers that had been left parked and unattended, and were not coupled to road tractors, according to U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri.
When they located a semi-trailer that appeared to be unattended, they would steal it and the goods it contained by coupling their tractor to it and driving off. After having stolen a semi-trailer and its contents, they usually transported the stolen goods to the Chicago and Detroit areas to be “fenced” or sold.
The specific charge to which Sherley pleaded guilty to involves a theft that occurred on May 11, 2013, at the Snappy Mart Truck Stop in West Plains. Sherley and another person stole a 2000 Wabash trailer, valued at $7,500, which contained a load of Green Giant canned corn, valued at $73,008.
The trailer, owned by Bryant Freight, LLC, was in transit from Minnesota to a food bank in Arkansas. Sherley admitted that they traveled through Missouri and Indiana with the stolen cargo before being apprehended in Michigan.
Under federal statutes, Sherley is subject to a sentence of up to 10 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000. Sentencing is set for later.
Thefts of food/drinks were the most frequently targeted cargo type by thieves last year, according to the logistics security services provider FreightWatch International, with the number of such incidents increasing more than 34% from the year before. Also, truckstops were the most frequently targeted unsecured parking areas by cargo thieves in the country last year.
Tags: Cargo Theft , Trailer Theft, Cargo Fraud