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Cargo theft: Thwart it with common sense

Nov. 25, 2014
FreightWatch International tells how— security firm also reports big upswing in ‘driver-theft incidents’

The holiday shopping stretch that nowadays begins before Thanksgiving helps drive the annual peak shipping period, which runs from September through January.  Of course, the latter season is more about taking than giving— at least for cargo thieves.

Last year, cargo-theft activity “concentrated in the fourth quarter with a cumulative 242 incidents” and “the greatest number of incidents were reported in late September, just before the beginning of the holiday,” per a white paper released by logistics-security provider FreightWatch International titled “Combatting Cargo Theft-- The Secret Sauce Is Common Sense.”

What’s more, the paper reports a “significant rise in driver theft incidents.” FreightWatch defines those as crimes that involve direct theft by a driver or a driver’s voluntary collusion or complicity as well as those in which a “deceptive criminal” poses as a driver.

“Typically a crime of opportunity, thefts by drivers fluctuate in volume year-to-year,” points out the paper’s author, Eric Kready, manager of FreightWatch’s Supply Chain Intelligence Center. “However, this method reached an all-time high in 2013, with a 76% increase over 2012 and a 389% increase over 2011.”

Kready contends that “this growing trend—surreptitious drivers— warrants acute awareness,” especially during the peak shipping season. “The last four months of the calendar year frequently infuse the most risk, often brought about by the supply and demand imparted on transportation operations.

“Limitations on available carriers regularly necessitate brokering (as well as re-brokering to the second, third, and sometimes fourth order),” he continues. Additionally, high-volume requirements (both in production and shipping) strain workers throughout the supply chain to meet the demands of customers and end-users. “This pressure often results in security practices being overlooked or sometimes avoided altogether.”

Kready advises deploying common sense to cut the risk of “falling victim to this growing threat” by adhering to the “ten fundamentals of logistics security,” here listed with a brief takeaway on each from his paper:

1) Background Investigations

“Shippers are strongly encouraged to conduct due-diligence initiatives when sourcing their transportation requirements, as well as to perform thorough background investigations on anyone involved with product during the shipping process.”

2) Facility Preparedness

“Due to the high volume of product stored in single locations, warehouse burglaries are typically the largest value incidents. Simple, yet effective measures should be taken to ensure efficient security at all facilities.”

3) Security-Awareness Training

“During a recent cargo theft incident, the driver of the stolen load stated that he had recently received cargo security awareness training and that, because of this training, he knew what immediate actions to take. The driver’s response, both in promptness and method, greatly contributed to the successful recovery of the untampered cargo.”

4) Keep Current on Theft Trends

“Shippers and carriers alike must remain cognizant of threat trends… [both] must also maintain awareness of high threat areas, not necessarily to avoid them but rather to ensure security protocols are adjusted to meet those threats.”

5) Holiday Awareness

“In order to mitigate criminals’ attempts to exploit cargo at rest, shippers should ensure that the receiver’s hours of operation for the holiday weekend are consistent with scheduled delivery time.”

6) In-Transit Security Policy

“Careful analysis must be applied to the enterprise’s logistics footprint in order to determine the most feasible and applicable in-transit security policy.”

7) Reduce Time Loads Unattended

“Cargo at rest is cargo at risk. Almost 90% of cargo theft in the United States in the past 12 months has occurred at an unsecured or unattended location away from the origin.”

8) Route and Lane Variation

“Organized cargo thieves are smart, methodical, and patient. They invest time in planning—a key part of their planning is surveillance.”

9) Covert Tracking Technology

“Electronic Freight Security (EFS) is a dynamic tool that allows a shipper to maintain full visibility of the cargo for the duration of the shipment.”

10) Layered Approach

“A Security-In-Depth (SID) or Defense-In-Depth (DID) approach is paramount to thwarting cargo theft. SID or DID ensures layered and complementary security controls are sufficient to deter, detect, and document unauthorized procurement of cargo.”

Summing up his paper, Kearny observes that “cargo theft will likely remain a low-risk source of income for criminals. The first rule of security is to be a harder target than those in comparable situations… The organized criminal dedicates an inordinate amount of time to surveillance, preparation, and rehearsals; we must dedicate similar or more resources to proactively combat this ever-growing threat.”

Information on downloading a copy of “Combatting Cargo Theft-- The Secret Sauce Is Common Sense” has been posted online by FreightWatch International.

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