The July 4th holiday is a hot time for cargo theft. Doug Morris, director of safety and security operations for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association says: "Drivers try to be home for the 4th of July holiday. They may pick up a load and leave it overnight at the local truck stop or another location and go home to be with family and friends. They return the next day and their rig is missing." Statistics from CargoNet bear this out. They report that during the July 1-7 week, cargo thefts have risen over the past three years.
Morris, who also is Highway and Motor Carrier Sector Coordinating Council for the Department of Homeland Security, offers these tips to drivers to keep their rigs safe.
1 - Be cognizant of your surroundings. "Lock your truck," Morris says. "A lot of times you go to a truck stop and see drivers who don’t lock their trucks; they just leave it open." He also expresses concern about small aluminum or plastic seals. "They're easy to break off and thieves can peek inside and see what you’re carrying." Thieves may like what they see, follow your truck and hijack you. The top three targeted commodities are food & beverage, electronics and metals, according to CargoNet. Morris adds: "Gut feelings are generally correct feelings. If you feel that you're being followed, call 911."
2 - Try to have enough hours and fuel to drive several hours after an initial pick up. If thieves have been watching your truck [being loaded] they know that you're full and what you're hauling. They may follow you for a short while to see if you stop. "Sometimes, drivers will pick up a load, travel down the road a half hour or so and enter a truck stop," Morris says. "That's often how we see loads being stolen." Travel far enough that it's not worthwhile for thieves to follow you.
3. Park in well-lit areas that preferably have security cameras or a security guard. "And don’t leave the load for more than several hours," Morris says: "I see drivers park their truck and go off for four to five hours. That's not a good idea." The top three theft locations are truck stops, warehouse and parking lots.
4. Utilize theft deterrents such as kingpin locks, air brake valve locks, steering mechanism locks, and utilize a heavy duty lock on the trailer. "Anything you can do to deter thieves is a good thing," says Morris. "There are GPS tracking devices. I know a lot of drivers can't afford them, but it's worth it for a high-dollar load. Air brake valve locks, which prevent truck brakes from being released, are a deterrent. There's also steering mechanism locks. I would suggest buying a heavy-duty lock for the trailer." Some drivers say that people will think you have a valuable load because they see the lock, but anything to deter thieves from seeing what’s inside the trailer in the first place is a good idea," he says.
5. Never discuss what you're hauling with anyone as you may lay the grounds for becoming a target. "Sometimes drivers will talk to folks at a truck stop and tell them what they're hauling. They'll say: 'I'm hauling electronics, shrimp or beer or something like that.' That tips others who may call cargo theft rings and let them know about a high-dollar load. You've now been targeted, often by a ring looking for particular items, and they will follow you from the truck stop," Morris warns.
What to do if you're a victim of cargo theft? "Have information about your truck, registration plate information and your trailer registration handy. I've seen cases where police are called, and the truck driver doesn’t know his own tag number. Keep a three-by-five card in your wallet with this information so police can broadcast it right away."