Even as fleets try to assess potential terrorist threats in the wake of Sept. 11, trucking is faced with the growing problem of cargo theft, a $12- to $15-billion annual criminal enterprise that just may provide funding for terrorist organizations.
"It's not that billions of dollars worth of cargo is being stolen every year, it's that those losses are helping to fund terrorists," said Bob Bevelacqua, director of security assessments for SafeFreight Inc. "That's why the trucking industry needs to develop a security culture."
In an interview with Fleet Owner, Bevelacqua explained that the trucking industry needs to realize that cargo thieves and terrorist groups seeking to use trucks as weapons of mass destruction can very well be two sides of the same coin. Yet defeating both groups can be accomplished with same tactics.
"First, a trucking company needs to know how to collect information and turn it into intelligence. That helps to determine if the company is a target of cargo thieves and if it is vulnerable to them," he said. "I've found most trucking companies are relatively inexperienced when it comes to intelligence gathering. That's why they need to grow a security 'culture' within their organization."
Bevelacqua speaks with some authority on security. A former member of the U.S. Special Forces, he served in Haiti, the Persian Gulf and Kosovo. During his 13-year Army career, Bevelacqua developed security assessments for the U.S. State Department, assessing how vulnerable U.S. government facilities were to attack. Two years ago, he met Curtis Serna, founder & CEO of Jacksonville, FL-based Safefreight, and brought the same assessment techniques to the freight transportation industry.
"The good news for trucking companies is that a lot of what they need to do to make themselves more secure isn't just buying technology, it's training their employees," Bevelacqua said. "In the assessments we do, we spend two weeks to a month watching a client's facilities, looking to see if criminals are watching them and also launching our own 'probing' operations, where we act as the 'criminals' and break into the 'target.' Then we go back to the client and show them their weak spots and how they can train their employees to eliminate those spots."
Safefreight's primary business is making trailer alarm systems to help prevent thieves from stealing cargo in the first place. However, Serna likes to point out that fleets don't necessarily have to equip all of their trailers with alarms if they can deduce through an assessment which trailers are the most vulnerable.
"If a fleet with 100 trailers only has 10 or 15 operating on 'dangerous' routes, then that's where the technology needs to go," he explained.
Targeting the investment is also key for small fleets, he added, which feel the loss from cargo theft harder than larger fleets, especially in terms of higher insurance premiums.