North Bergen, NJ-based National Retail Systems (NRS) always had fairly tight security in place to govern its global and domestic trucking and logistics operations.
“We carry the kinds of goods that move well on the black market,” John Tabor, the company’s director of corporate security, told FleetOwner. “So we’ve always been very focused on securing ourselves against theft— locking our trailers, tracking them, etc.”
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, however, the focus on transportation security “changed pretty drastically,” he said.
“Before 9/11, we really never dealt with too many inspections of containers coming from overseas,” Tabor explained. “Now every week one of our units is getting inspected. For us, container inspections have gone up from 5% to 50%.”
In business since 1953, NRS is a third-party logistics provider made up of several different companies: National Retail Transportation, an LTL carrier; National Retail Consolidators; Keystone Freight Corp., a truckload and dedicated carrier; World Logistics; and Distribution Services. It operates a total of 1,100 power units—both tractors and straight trucks—along with 4,500 trailers.
While NRS’s trailers are equipped with Terion tracking devices and are sealed to prevent unauthorized entry, Tabor is concerned that global efforts to bring the same level of security to ocean containers are falling short.
“As required under the customs-trade partnership against terrorism (CTPAT), containers are now being equipped with seals to make sure they are not tampered with in transit,” he said. “The problem is, the ports are not checking the container and seal number when it arrives against the manifest—meaning that a seal can be removed in transit and replaced by a new one and no one would know.”
Still, that doesn’t diminish the greater level of emphasis being placed on transportation providers, Tabor said. “A lot more shippers are requiring their transportation providers to conduct background checks on employees,” he said. “And security is still uppermost in many of their minds. For example, before 9/11, I never went on sales calls. Now I do, because our customers want to know about our security efforts.”
Tabor, however, said money is still what’s holding up security investments by many transportation providers.
“Six out of every 10 truck trailers out there drives around without a lock on it, and that’s a very basic level of security, a $12 to $15 per unit starting point,” he explained.
“But what a fleet must do is look for ways to get other benefits from their security improvements,” Tabor stressed. “For example, we use our Terion tracking data to let customers know exactly when it leaves the port to when it arrives at the store. Yet we use that data to learn how productive that asset is. We also sell it ‘in house’ in terms of safety. For instance, how fast is that trailer going? If it’s going 80 mph down the highway we need to talk to the driver. So that data is now a safety-teaching tool as well.”
He also said partnering with local and national law enforcement is a must. “You must invite law enforcement in twice a year to talk to your managers about cargo theft and terrorism and keep those communication channels open,” Tabor noted. “If you build that awareness, install security equipment, and build up credibility in the eyes of law enforcement, you’ll go a long way towards not only reducing cargo crime but securing yourself against terrorism.”To comment on this article, write to Sean Kilcarr at [email protected]