7 Steps to Prevent Cargo Theft

Theft prevention begins at home -- screen all prospective employees.

If your company manufactures consumer electronics, food or apparel, you probably already know that your products are the most frequent targets of cargo thieves, based on a study conducted by the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies. Truck stops and highway rest areas are the most targeted locations for cargo thefts, Chubb's research indicates, as these places account for more than one-third (39%) of all incidents, followed by modal yards (managed by trucking companies, railroads or ocean carriers) at 27% of all thefts, and unsecured locations (drop lots, motel, restaurant and mall parking lots), which account for 25%. Other cargo thefts and disappearances include warehouse burglaries (6%) and hijackings (3%).

"Cargo thieves are opportunists, and these statistics indicate where, when and how they are likely to strike and the type of goods they are likely to target," notes Barry Tarnef, a marine loss control specialist for Chubb Marine Underwriters. "Although many incidents go unreported, cargo crime in the United States is estimated to cost businesses several billions of dollars per year." Chubb's research includes more than three years' worth of cargo theft data from the International Cargo Security Council, Transported Asset Protection Association, news reports and Chubb claims.

According to Tarnef, businesses can take the following seven actions to help prevent cargo thefts:

  1. Thoroughly screen prospective employees. Some cargo security experts maintain that a high percentage of cargo thefts involve inside information or complicity.
  2. Carefully select transportation partners and intermediaries. Remember that these companies have care, custody and control of goods once they leave your premises until they reach their destination.
  3. Establish a security culture within your company. Provide security training for employees, and educate truck drivers in hijack awareness and prevention.
  4. 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 pounce on the loads. Drivers should not be allowed to stop in the "red zone" (the first 200 miles/4 hours from their starting point) as well as known hot spots.
  5. Incorporate counter surveillance into the duties of security guards, and have guards patrol away from perimeters.
  6. Take advantage of technology. Vehicle and shipment tracking, vehicle immobilization and advanced, high-technology security seals are now available at lower cost.
  7. Conduct periodic security audits. Operations and personnel change, and criminals are always harvesting fresh ideas and modifying previous techniques.

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