To Protect and Deliver

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


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.

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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.

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