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Datamyne Resource Center

Covering trade & transport, with tips on using import-export data to advantage

Stop Thief!

Category: Exports, Imports, Resources

Most cargo thefts occur in transit

By Bill Armbruster

What’s the annual cost of cargo theft in the U.S.? Estimates range from less than $2 billion to $30 billion. There are several reasons for that huge disparity. They include the lack of a national database and the use of different formulas for calculating losses. Some companies are reluctant to report cargo theft.

Whatever the actual figure, it matters little if you’re one of the statistics.

Electronics, pharmaceuticals, apparel, food and drinks are the most targeted commodities, but thieves will go after almost anything – even toilet paper.

Trucking incidents account for 80 to 85% of all cases, followed by warehouse burglaries. Collusion between insiders and criminal gangs is often a factor. Warehouse workers, for example, can tell thieves what’s in a truck, when it’s leaving, and its route.

Here are some tips for preventing cargo theft:

  • Make sure warehouse doors and gates are properly secured, and the facilities have good lighting and security cameras.
  • Know your trucker.
  • Assign two drivers and tell them that one should always stay inside the cab when they stop at a rest area. Require them to inform dispatch when they take a break.
  • Tell drivers to park in secure areas.
  • Place a GPS device or some other covert tracking device in the truck so that dispatchers can monitor it and detect the location if it’s stolen.
  • Use a device connected to the ignition that immobilizes the truck if someone tries to start it without a key.
  • Tell your driver to go at least 200 miles before stopping. (Most thefts occur within 200 miles of the point of origin.)
  • Make sure the truck is fully fueled before the driver picks up the load.
  • Use a secure seal on the container or trailer. Manufacturers of seals include Sealock Security and Tyden Brooks Security Group. Seals might not deter every thief, but they discourage most. Moreover, they make it easier to detect partial thefts of contents – the type of “leakage” theft most likely to occur at warehouses.
  • Consider using the services of organizations such as Freightwatch International, Cargonet, Supply Chain Security Solutions, the Transported Assets Protection Association, the International Cargo Security Council, or one of its regional affiliates, such as the Southeast Transportation Security Council.
  • Inspect the container or trailer thoroughly, including floors, walls and ceiling.
  • Keep the calendar in mind when planning logistics. Most thefts occur over the weekend, so don’t expect a driver to pick up a load at 4:00 p.m. on a Friday and deliver it to a destination 400 miles away on Monday morning. That load is going to sit somewhere that’s probably not as secure as your warehouse.
  • Do a cost-benefit analysis of security options. Armed escorts are expensive, but if you’re moving high-value cargo in high-risk countries, they may be worth it.
  • To recover your cargo after a theft, report it to law enforcement immediately, in as much detail as possible. If you’re a customer or member of one of the above-mentioned security groups, also report it to them immediately.
  • Develop a protocol for handling cargo thefts immediately. For example, make sure someone in your company knows how to use a tracking device to locate a truck.

Cargo theft is attractive to criminals because the penalties are relatively light. It is also relatively low on law enforcement’s list of priorities since most U.S. cases are non-violent. There are exceptions. Law enforcement agencies that have units devoted to cargo theft include the New Jersey State Police, the Miami-Dade County Police, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department 

About Bill Armbruster

Bill Armbruster, the anchor for the Datamyne Blog has covered shipping and trade for 30 years as a reporter and editor with The Journal of Commerce and Shipping Digest. “I’ll be blogging on headline news and current issues in oceangoing commerce, trying to shed some light on the backstories and, wherever I can, supply some sound advice for shippers.” Write to [email protected]

The opinions expressed in this article are those of its author and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views or Descartes Datamyne. In addition, this article is for general information purposes only and it’s not intended to provide legal advice or opinions of any kind and my not be used for professional or commercial purposes. No one should act, or refrain from acting, based solely on this article without first seeking appropriate legal or other professional advice.

Date posted: August 5, 2010


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