The truck-based terrorist attack that occurred in Berlin, Germany, this week – an attack that claimed 12 lives and injured 49 others – is yet another stark reminder that weaponizing everyday transportation modes remains a key terrorist tactic.
However, stopping truck-based terror attacks in no easy task as this story explains. And perhaps even more frightening is this story, in which Rolf Tophoven, the director of the Institute for Crisis Prevention (IFUS) in Essen, Germany, makes this blunt statement:
“If a radicalized fanatic decides to use a truck as a weapon, you don't stand a chance, unless you know about him and his plans in advance and arrest him before he can act. It's impossible to check all vehicles in the EU [European Union] or to seal off all Christmas markets to protect them from any danger. You'd have to close them for that. An attack like this one cannot be prevented with 100% certainty.”
Therein is the conundrum faced by the global freight industry: Trucks are a necessity for hauling all manner of goods and need freedom of access to deliver said goods quickly and efficiently, all at a low cost. Yet that very “freedom of access” can be turned against society by a terrorist bent on causing death and destruction for all manner of political or religious causes.
Yet trucking security can’t be boiled down to just thwarting terrorist attempts to turn commercial vehicles into weapons. There’s other nefarious criminal work afoot, particular in the realm of cargo theft.
"Cargo theft continues to be a pervasive issue," noted Anthony Canale, general manager of CargoNet, in a recent report.
"Our 2015 year-end report indicated 881 incidents of cargo theft took place across North America – up from 844 thefts reported in 2014 – and that accounted for more than $175 million in goods,” he explained. “While thieves continue to get more tech-savvy with their approaches, there are measures that can be put in place to stop them, ranging from proactive deterrence tactics to extensive recovery assistance."
Canale emphasized that using a “multi-layered security approach” while staying “a step ahead of thieves” are the best ways to avoid cargo theft incidents. Here are some tips along those lines:
- Screen employees: Conduct background checks to screen drivers, warehouse employees, and anyone who has access to shipment information and logistics details. This is the first line of defense against theft.
- Take advantage of technology and put in-transit security measures in place: This can include vibration sensors, geo-fencing, tamper alarms, and remote paging. Also set guidelines for drivers, such as not stopping within the first 200 miles or four hours, use secured lots, and avoiding theft hot spots.
- Have a risk management team in place: Whether it's in-house or a third party, having a dedicated risk management team will help you avoid theft. Or if something is stolen, this team will help you respond to the incident and recover the goods quickly.
- Know who your recovery network is: Having open lines of communication with multiple modes of law enforcement helps you quickly report theft information so recovery efforts can be activated promptly.
- Be informed: Knowing where and when thefts most commonly occur, as well as what items are commonly targeted, is critical for proactive avoidance.
In that vein, it’s worth noting that Los Angeles County is the top U.S. locale for cargo theft, with 329 thefts reported spanning July 1, 2013, through July 1, 2016. On top of that, more than a third of those took place at a warehouse or distribution center, noted Michael Meeks, director of risk management for AFN Logistics, in a statement.
"Knowing how common cargo theft is and how savvy these thieves have become, we're extremely proud of this fact and expect the trend to continue,” he explained. “It goes to show that having a third-party ally to serve as a watchdog and risk management/response team can make or break a business's ability to avoid falling victim to theft."
Here are a few other cargo theft statistics worthy of note, based on data compiled by CargoNet and AFN Logistics. First, the top counties for cargo theft across the U.S. over the last three years:
- Los Angeles County, CA
- Dallas County, TX
- San Bernardino County, CA
- Cook County (Chicago), IL
- Miami-Dade County, FL
- Harris County (Houston), TX
- Tarrant County (Arlington/Fort Worth), TX
- Middlesex County (Edison), NJ
- Will County (Bolingbrook), IL
- Riverside County, CA
Next, the top types of locations for cargo theft over the last three years:
- Warehouse/Distribution Center: 329 thefts
- Other: 295
- Parking lot: 170
- Secured yard: 166
- Unsecured yard: 120
- The rest include truck stops, side of the road, carrier or terminal lots, drop lots, and ports of entry.
The long and the short of it when it comes to trucking security is pretty simple: the need for it is only increasing. So now is the time to find the right types of gunslingers and gumshoes who can face off against the security threats trucking increasingly must face.