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How to Protect Your Cargo Logistics Network from Thieves

In most large-value cargo thefts occurring at stores, there are two key components: a store employee and a driver. The employee allows access to the goods, while the driver has the means to transport the stolen freight unnoticed.

One key tool in combating this problem is the strict rotation of drivers through various delivery routes in your cargo logistics network. This will ensure that the driver and store employee never have time in advance to set up a heist or to develop any type of personal relationship.

When possible, try to implement a procedure where the driver calls into his dispatcher, and then his dispatcher contacts the store to notify them of his or her arrival. This will allow for an extra set of eyes while the driver makes his way in with the paperwork.

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Do not allow drivers to break seals, no matter what the weather or circumstance, or to remain unattended in the receiving area. An unattended driver can steal thousands of dollars in merchandise in less than sixty seconds. Do you expect the driver to tell you about the two cartons of iPhones he just stole?

Implementing these simple changes in your receiving area does not require huge resources. It’s low-hanging fruit that can make a big difference. Beyond the receiving area, security gets more complicated. Luckily, we have tools that can help us.

Theft Prevention Tactics for a Cargo Logistics Network

Background Checks. By now, everyone must have an understanding on how necessary background checks are to a supply-chain security program. The strict scrutiny of potential employees is critical to eliminating losses. The most important thing is the necessity to run a criminal check in every county that a potential applicant has lived. Many times, you will see carriers conduct a criminal check only in the county of current residence. This is done primarily to save money.

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Instead, run a report showing every known address where a person has lived, and then run a criminal check in each of those counties. The number of “hits” will likely triple. This it is not wasted money, but money well spent in protecting ours and our customers’ assets.

Locks. Do not underestimate the value of a good lock on the back of a loaded trailer. Imagine closing up one of your stores at night and not locking the door. You probably can’t imagine that. Why then would you allow someone carrying your store’s merchandise to its final destination to do that exact thing? By strictly enforcing a lock policy, you can eliminate many thefts in transit.

GPS Tracking. For years, trucking companies have been able to tell you where the tractor that is pulling your merchandise is at any given time. That information proved useful in making sure that just-in-time shipments were, in fact, just in time. However, for many reasons, this technology often proved useless in the event of an in-transit theft or hijacking. The first thing a thief will do is disable the GPS in a matter of seconds. Furthermore, many thefts occur after the tractor is disconnected from the trailer and another power unit is attached to make sure that no other tracking devices can possibly be used.

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In the past when this happened, freight was lost—until tracking became available for trailers. These systems give us the ability to track a trailer’s location without being attached to a tractor. Many carriers have outfitted their entire fleets with this technology. Ask your service provider about it.

Partnering with Law Enforcement

Even when you have everything in place in your cargo logistics network, you will still encounter problems. There will always be thieves. Thieves will always come up with new ways to thwart technology, and technology always has some percentage of failure. When this occurs, your relationships with law enforcement will be your last chance for a successful recovery.

Cargo theft prevention task forces are appearing all over the country. It is critical to get to know these officers on a personal level so they have a more vested interest in getting your merchandise back.

Critical Strategy Components

Following are some key items to consider when developing a supply-chain security program for your company.

Communication Is Critical. Effective intelligence gathering and information sharing is a critical part of any supply-chain security program. In many cases, law enforcement will recover a vehicle with all of the contents stolen long before the theft is reported to local agencies. While there is a definite need for timely cargo theft information sharing between law enforcement agencies, you can help the process by promptly reporting thefts to enforcement officials.

Develop relationships with law enforcement in the areas where you operate. Several multi-jurisdictional cargo-theft task forces around the country do nothing but investigate trailer-load thefts. They know who the thieves are and where they like to take their stolen bounty. Make it a point to know every one of these groups. Quick action and communication are the keys to successful recovery and preventing future crimes.

Don’t React Passively to Loss. After a theft has been committed in your cargo logistics network, have it thoroughly investigated rather than simply filing a police report or insurance claim. Because many companies do not aggressively investigate, cargo thieves strike with little or no concern for being caught. In fact, organized retail crime rings often focus on the same companies, hitting them continuously until they are no longer easy targets.

Establish Security Compliance Standards. Clarify your expectations. You want to be sure that your carriers are doing enough proactively and, equally important, will do the right thing if a theft occurs.

  • Do they have the latest GPS technology and systems for tracking shipments?
  • Are their facilities safe? How safe?
  • Do they have the right personnel and processes in place to address their supply chain security program?

Do not assume your shipments are safe in the hands of a third party. Make it your responsibility to ensure they are protecting your cargo the way you want it done.

Commitment to Cargo Theft

Retailers often ask, “Why should I care so much about preventing thefts when I don’t own the merchandise until you deliver it?” The answer is because you, the retailer, stand to lose the most. You lose potential sales when the merchandise is sold on the black market in your neighborhoods. If the load happens to be “hot” ad freight, you lose customer loyalty when the items are not in stock. You lose when the stolen merchandise is used for fraudulent refunds in your store.

There are countless ways that retailers stand to lose from an unsecured supply chain. It behooves retail loss prevention departments to partner with their internal transportation departments, outside logistics contractors, and law enforcement to develop a supply-chain security program and work to stop cargo thefts.

This article was excerpted from “Critical Components to a Supply Chain Security Program,” which was originally published in 2008. This article was updated July 17, 2018. 

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