Cargo theft: Rethinking security, logistics can help reduce the risks

March 1, 2009
Cargo Theft is a huge enterprise. Every year, tens of billions of dollars are lost due to cargo theft. Industry estimates are as high as $60 billion a

Cargo Theft is a huge enterprise. Every year, tens of billions of dollars are lost due to cargo theft. Industry estimates are as high as $60 billion a year in losses, not counting the indirect costs associated with theft, such as prices increasing due to higher insurance premiums, lost sales, and missed deliveries.

Law enforcement officials, however, believe losses are considerably higher. Cargo theft is not always categorized in the same way. Moreover, they figure that as much as 60% of cargo theft incidents go unreported.

In an effort to quantify just how much cargo is stolen from trucks, the FBI is in the process of adding a cargo-theft section to the Uniform Crime Reporting program that gathers local, state, and national crime statistics.

Food, consumer electronics, and clothing are the three most stolen cargoes, and thefts of these and other items occur most often during the weekend, found research by the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies.

Chubb's statistical study of 3½ years (from January 2005 through June 2008) of cargo theft data indicates that truckstops and rest areas are the most targeted locations for cargo thefts, accounting for more than one-third of all incidents. Next are modal yards and unsecured locations, such as drop lots and motel and restaurant parking lots.

Among the steps businesses can take to help prevent cargo thefts:

  • Thoroughly screen prospective employees. Some cargo security experts maintain that a high percentage of cargo thefts involve inside information or complicity.

  • Carefully select transportation partners and intermediaries. These companies have care, custody, and control of goods once they leave one's premises until they reach their destination.

  • Establish a security culture within one's company. Provide security training for employees, and educate truck drivers in hijack awareness and prevention.

  • Factor in security when determining shipment routing. Cargo thieves often “case” known shipping points (plants, warehouses, and distribution centers) and follow trucks as they depart, waiting for the drivers to stop so that they can seize the loads. Drivers shouldn't be allowed to stop in the “red zone” (the first 200 miles/four hours from the starting point) or in known “hot spots.”

  • Incorporate countersurveillance into the duties of security guards, and have guards patrol away from perimeters.

  • Take advantage of technology. Vehicle and shipment tracking, vehicle immobilization, and advanced, high-technology security seals are available.

  • Conduct periodic security audits. Operations and personnel change, and criminals are always harvesting fresh ideas and modifying previous techniques.

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