Cargo theft is a nationwide issue in the transportation industry with a significant impact on the U.S. economy. It is estimated that cargo crime accounts for a direct merchandise loss of $15 to $30 billion per year. This is even more alarming considering virtually all goods manufactured domestically and internationally are transported by truck and train within the continental U.S.

Seven Steps to Prevent Cargo Theft

1. Screen Employees: Conduct a background check to screen all employees, but at a minimum, drivers and warehouse employees as well as anyone who has access to shipment information and other logistics details.

2. Training: Provide security training for all employees and especially make sure to educate truck drivers in hijack awareness and prevention. It is for their protection as well as for the cargo. By training how to protect the truck from hijacking and theft, five important assets are safeguarded: employee, trailer, tractor, cargo and customers. Experience shows that a driver who knows, understands and follows the basic tenets of security is less likely to have their truck targeted for cargo theft.

3. Be Smart in Selecting Transportation Partners: Select transportation partners wisely, making sure they share your security philosophy, such as requiring strict pre-hire vetting and driver training. You are entrusting your goods and your reputation to these companies.

4. In-Transit Security: Consider in-transit security when deciding on shipment routing. Cargo theft can be pre-planned or opportunistic. It can involve an inside informant who stakes out and follows the truck or an experienced thief, organized crime or fence who will quickly dispose of the goods. Cargo thieves routinely wait outside known shipping points and follow trucks as they depart, waiting for drivers to stop. A good rule of thumb is to ask drivers not to stop within the first 200 miles (or four hours), used secured lots and avoid hot spots. Also, do not give expensive loads to new truck drivers with less than 30 days on the job.

5. Counter surveillance: Include counter surveillance in the duties of your security guards. Have them patrol away from the perimeters and look for people looking at you. Trucks and cargo are most vulnerable to theft when sitting idle. Additional security measures for drivers include parking in well-lit, secure lots, limiting the time their trailers and loads are unattended and observing or evaluation their surroundings for potential dangers.

6. Take Advantage of Technology: When it makes sense, install alarm-surveillance systems and respond to every alert. Ensure the perimeter, entrances, building doors and windows are well lit. Vehicle and cargo tracking, vehicle immobilizers, including anti-theft heavy duty locking devised and advanced security seals are now available at lower costs. No matter what you choose, combine it with a viable escalation and response plan.

7. Conduct Audits: Conduct periodic supply chain audits and look for gaps in shipment protection. Cargo criminals are always coming up with new ways to defeat security devices and systems. By assessing your own system first, you will have the opportunity to close the gaps in your supply chain. Anticipate criminals’ moves rather than react to them.

This document contains general information on reducing risk. Always consult proper authorities and your legal counsel as appropriate.