Trucks at Work

Tracking trailers

You know, trailer security is a pretty big issue in this country, although it rarely makes the headlines. That‘s a direct result in the booming growth in cargo theft - a crime that, in many places, still carries little in the way of penalties while offering a hefty monetary return.

Annual losses to cargo theft are hard to pin down, though. Estimates range from $3.5 billion annually, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), to between $10 billion and $15 billion per year, as calculated by the International Cargo Security Council. Indirect costs related to cargo theft - not including all law enforcement or security technology costs - range from $20 billion to $60 billion each year, according to several industry estimates.

“Cargo theft is our number-one priority,” said Unit Chief Eric Ives, who heads the Major Theft Unit in the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division in a report issues by the agency last year. According to Ives, the average freight on a trailer is valued between $12,000 and $3 million with the most common theft “hotspots” bring truck yards, hubs for commercial freight carriers, and port cities.

One way the trucking industry is looking to combat cargo theft while also getting some other efficiency benefits in the bargain is by tracking trailers. Making trailer tracking technology affordable, however, is a debate that‘s raged for many years now in trucking. Now it looks like the latest chapter is going to be opened next month (January 8th to be precise) courtesy of an online “webinar” hosted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the American Trucking Research Institute (ATRI).

The January 8th “webinar” will focus on carrier utilization of un-tethered trailer tracking systems (UTT) and their potential to improve asset management while beefing up security in trucking operations. One of the participants is Mike Gabbei, chief information officer for Celadon Trucking Services. He‘s someone I‘ve interviewed before on technology topics and let me tell you his insight will be particularly valuable as he has a good knack for turning “technospeak” into clear English. Another will be Al Hoffer, director of trailer operations for Landstar Systems - another carrier that‘s no slouch when it comes to using technology to improve efficiency (and thus cut costs while boosting profits).

To register for the webinar, send an email to [email protected] and include the words “UTT Webinar” in the subject line. The online conference starts at 12 noon eastern standard on Jan. 8 and should run for about one and half hours, according to ATRI. Confirmation notices will be emailed within 24 hours of registration, containing the web address, phone number, and other relevant information for participation.

Whether you are considering using such technology or not for your fleet, I think it‘s well worth attending, because one day - I am most certain of this - commercial truck trailers will all be equipped with some sort of tracking device, maybe by federal mandate.