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Taking the guesswork out of theft prevention

By Hpanchal on September 27, 2011

Cargo theft has impacted nearly every industry, from paper products to electronics. Experts estimate that cargo and equipment theft costs stakeholders $30 billion to $50 billion annually worldwide, although there are no records of these thefts, so this number is just an estimate.

Security is a necessity today. With the nation on heightened alert, the transportation and air cargo industries must be prepared. By its very nature, the airfreight sector places goods in a more vulnerable environment than when they are at a shipper’s or receiver’s facility. It’s not like having your goods in a warehouse; you cannot post a security guard, install lights and a closed-circuit TV system, or build a fence around your freight.

Expensive freight is moved along highways and by air and sea everyday, and security procedures and devices are becoming more necessary for carriers and other companies involved in transporting goods. Today, many security-conscious firms have taken steps to combat theft of their equipment and products.

Although there are some trends in what type of commodities are stolen, theft has affected nearly every type of product from childrens’ toys to pharmaceuticals. Some cargo categories that are especially vulnerable include electronics, metals, apparel, pharmaceuticals, appliances and auto parts.

The traditional days and times of  cargo theft occur during the weekend period; holiday weekends also tend to be attract a higher rate of theft due to facilities sometimes being dark for a longer period of time with limited personnel.

Geography also also has a lot to do with theft. Among all transportation types in the U.S., 12 states — among them, California, Georgia, Florida, Texas, Tennessee, New York and Illinois — account for 80 percent of all freight theft. What’s more, a number of cargo thefts occur  in the trucking industry when the vehicle transporting  cargo is stopped in an unsecured location. A good rule of thumb is “freight at rest is freight at risk.”

Typical areas for these types of theft include truck stops, unsecured drop yards and restaurant/shopping center parking lots. Terminals and distribution center yards are now becoming a more popular target as well, illustrating a need by companies to provide security within these areas.

All stakeholders that bear the burden of cargo should be involved in the security process as much as they can, as they all share in the monetary loss should a load go missing.

Shippers need to take care in selecting their transportation partners. They should also consider the implications of supply chain/logistics decisions. Requesting specific delivery times narrows down the options available to the trucking company and driver. If you want a relatively local shipment to arrive at a specific destination early in the morning, this may well cause a driver to pick up the load the previous day in order to make the narrow appointment window.

It is important for companies to familiarize themselves with local and national law enforcement agencies. Taking the time to meet these agencies — specifically the personnel involved with investigating cargo theft — is important for the recovery of your product and assets. There are several cargo theft task forces in Illinois, Georgia, Florida, California, Tennessee and Texas that specifically focus on cargo-theft crimes. Networking with these groups is important, as they receive intel everyday on stolen loads and can assist in finding missing goods if they are reported in a timely fashion.

There are many measures companies can take to secure their freight whether they are shipping by land, sea or air. Security of products is every company’s responsibility. Knowing that cargo theft is a real issue in the supply chain is the first step; combating the problem with security solutions, intel, law enforcement involvement and analytics is the next step.

— Nick Erdmann is business development manager at Minnesota-based Transport Security, Inc. ENFORCER®

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