To Protect and Deliver

Practical — and easy-to-implement — steps can help prevent cargo theft and mitigate risk for shippers


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:

  1. Understand where and how cargo thieves operate.
  2. Add several precautionary measures to your security protocol before, during and after cargo leaves your facility.

Most theft incidents occur when product is en route from a factory or warehouse to a distribution center or retail store. Special planning and preventive measures need to be put in place long before product is given to a driver and released onto the open road.

Preventive Analytics

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.

Carrier Selection

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:

  • Notify the dispatcher if/when planning to stop.
  • Always arrive at your facility with full fuel tanks.
  • Always drive a minimum of 200 miles after accepting one of your loads before stopping.
  • Only use approved rest stops along the route.
  • Park vehicles in areas where other drivers are present.
  • Drive in two-person teams whenever possible.
  • Never leave a vehicle unattended if possible.
  • Never take a load home or park in an unsecured area.
  • Keep tractor windows up and doors locked when traveling at low speeds or stopping.
  • Keep important documentation concerning the tractor and trailer (VIN, license plate numbers, trailer numbers, a description of the trailer) on his or her person at all times.
  • Contact the local police and notify your company's supply chain group, the dispatcher, etc., in the event of a theft.

Your carrier should provide you with the identity of the driver picking up your load at least 24 hours before the product is due to leave the loading dock. Confirm this identity when the driver arrives at the in-gate of your facility.

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.

Physical Security

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.

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