Over the last five years, the occurrence rate of cargo theft has been steadily rising in the United States. According to Freight Watch, the amount of reported incidents rose to a new high of 946 in 2012 (Source). That many reported thefts aggregates to a great deal of fiscal damage according to Global Newswire, who reported that experts estimated over $35 million in annual global losses (Source). With so much on the line, businesses must be cognizant of what they are shipping and where they are shipping it. FreightWatch reports that, in 2012, the top product types involved in cargo theft were food/drinks, metals and electronics. They also reported that the states with the highest frequency of cargo theft were California, Florida and Texas (Source). To avoid huge monetary losses and protect their goods, shippers must take measures to ensure that their supply chain is properly prepared.

Carrier Compliance

The simplest and most effective way for businesses to protect themselves against cargo theft is by doing their due-diligence when managing carrier compliance.

  • CSA Program: The first resource for many shippers and brokers is the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The CSA program was designed to improve large truck safety requirements and reduce the number of crashes, injuries and fatalities related to commercial motor vehicles by assigning scores to carriers based on their safety practices. By looking at a carrier’s Behavior Analysis Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs), shippers can determine how a carrier ranks in the categories of unsafe driving, hours of service (HOS) compliance, driver fitness, controlled substances and alcohol, vehicle maintenance, hazardous materials compliance, and crash indicator (Source).
  • Carrier411: Another tool businesses can utilize when managing carrier screening is Carrier411. This program allows businesses to create custom reports based multiple factors, including carrier’s BASIC scores, insurance, and FreightGuard reports. It also allows shippers to provide feedback on carriers they are currently using or have used in the past – creating a social sharing aspect which can be incredibly useful to shippers looking to find out real-world details about potential carrier partners.

Utilizing tools like the CSA program and Carrier411 allows shippers to gain complete transparency with carriers they use to ship their products, and greatly reduces their chance of working with an illegitimate carrier.

Staff Training

As the occurrence of cargo theft rises, so does the sophistication of cargo thieves. In the past, on-the-road hijacking was the most common form of cargo theft, but in recent years, thanks to the accessibility of technology, cargo thieves have been able to resort to “deceptive pickups” – in which they forge forms of identification to pick up the load they intend to steal.

According to Freight Watch, between 2009 and 2012, the occurrence of deceptive pickups rose by 763%, and in 2012, they were the leading method of cargo theft (Source). This fact indicates that either the chosen carriers were entirely fictitious or the pickups were being made by someone assuming the identity of a legitimate carrier and warehouse staff was not properly trained to detect invalid identification. Both pitfalls could easily be avoided by proper carrier compliance processes. To avoid cargo theft, businesses must not only utilize tactics to hire legitimate carrier partners, but also train their staff to properly identify and differentiate between valid and invalid carriers who arrive to pick up product.

Security While In-Transit

Once deciding to work with a carrier, there are many ways for shippers to continue to protect their shipments in-transit and avoid losses due to cargo theft.

  • GPS-Enabled Tracking: Before, shippers and brokers could only track a load through direct communication with the driver, but now, with the help of devices like the Qualcomm Satellite Device, they are able to directly pinpoint the shipments location. This technology helps shippers know exactly where their load is at all times, making it extremely easy to detect if something goes wrong on the road.

When working to protect in-transit cargo, it is important to remember that, after deceptive pickups, the most popular forms of cargo theft are hijacking and driver theft, both of which occur most frequently at rest stops. The best way to protect cargo is to keep it moving on the road for as long as possible, and there are a number of practices which can be implemented to accomplish that:

  • Driver Teams: By hiring a team of drivers who can simply switch driving as opposed to taking longer breaks, shippers can take the risk of hijacking and driver theft out of the equation.
  • Mileage Minimum: By mandating a mileage minimum – like 350 miles –  before the driver can take their first logged DOT break, shippers can lower the chance of being followed from a pickup location to the nearest rest stop.
  • Tail-to-tail parking: While at rest stops, many drivers have learned to park “tail-to-tail.” By blockading the entrance to the trailer, cargo thieves are unable to access the product.
  • Skybits: In addition to tracking the location of the truck with Qualcomm Satellite devices, shippers can use SkyBitz products to maintain visibility of the actual trailers and shipping containers while in-transit.

Cargo theft can happen at any time, to any shipment. Evidence from the past 5 years has proven that theft is on the rise and that no type of cargo is off limits. Shippers, however, are not without options. By taking steps to prepare and protect themselves before and during transit, businesses can stop their shipments from being stolen.