Tips to thwart 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.”

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