Trailer and Cargo Security: Why It Matters. How to Improve It.
By Carolina Ruiz • Published January 16, 2023 • 5 minute read
$57.9 million—that’s how much cargo theft cost carriers across the U.S. and Canada in 2021, according to CargoNet. The average price tag per incident was nearly $175,000. But that staggering figure is actually on the low side. The number does not include the mental toll on drivers, eroded trust with customers, and resources spent working with insurers on the claims.
Thieves are getting more sophisticated. So too must the trailer and cargo security practices that fight against them.
Common Cargo Theft Tactics
Assessing your risk for cargo theft starts with understanding the behaviors and tactics of the criminals tracking your fleet. Gone are the days when the bad guys simply sought high-value freight—electronics, tires, and pharmaceuticals. Now equally as attractive is lower value freight that thieves can sell quickly. Think personal hygiene products, non-perishable grocery items, and low-end apparel. That puts nearly every trailer within the crosshairs for theft.
Yard Shopping – CargoNet reports that warehouse and distribution centers sit in second place atop the list for cargo theft. Improperly secured yards are attractive places for thieves to make a quick profit. Thieves look for patterns in the trailers coming in and when they are offloaded. Pre-season deliveries that may sit in a yard longer represent prime targets.
Truck Stop Pit Stop – The top location for theft according to CargoNet is truck stops. Even 15 minutes for a bite to eat or a quick shower gives cargo thieves plenty of time to offload a trailer. A common tactic is tracking shippers near certain truck stops. When thieves cannot steal cargo directly from the yard, they simply follow the trailer to the nearest stop.
Trailer Theft – Criminals are not just looking for cargo. They often want the trailer storing it. Many switch out the VIN and resell the equipment. This creates a double hit for carriers who lose both the cargo and trailer.
Cyber Risks – An emerging trend in cargo theft starts online. The popularity of online broker sites has given thieves a new way to target freight. They visit the website to find a scheduled load, fake their credentials to get information, and then steal the goods before the real carrier arrives.
Strategies for Thwarting Thieves
No single strategy will stop trailer and cargo theft. Creating a comprehensive risk mitigation strategy by combining tactics is the best defense.
- High Security Locks – Lock things down. Consider using a kingpin, landing gear, and air cuff locks. At a minimum, ensure locks securing cargo doors cannot be removed easily.
- Identify High-Risk Zones – Set up high-risk protocols for theft-prone areas. California, Texas, and Florida represented 49% of all 2021 cargo thefts. However, areas around production facilities for certain types of freight throughout the country also are at high risk. Establish rules like entering facilities with a full fuel tank, ensuring 200 of miles of driving after pick-up before breaking, and verbally providing drivers with security procedures.
- Collaborate with Shippers – Assess security at shipper yards. For those with minimal protections, discuss different appointment or transit times to minimize the amount of time trailers remain loaded. Weekend drops when trailers sit offer a prime time for theft.
- Practice Safe Parking – Coach drivers to practice safety over the road. They should communicate with dispatch on parking locations and an estimated time they will be away from the truck. Searching for well-lit areas outside of high-risk zones is key. Educate them on danger signals like vehicles following the rig or paying the driver undo attention.
- Install Trailer Tracking – Asset and cargo monitoring solutions help companies know where their trailers and freight are at all times. The best tracking devices are tamper-proof, have battery power to remain working when unhooked from a truck, and deliver alerts in real time. The technology also helps companies know when trailers are loaded to improve time to dispatch or layover fees so equipment does not sit. Smart cameras inside the trailer go a step further to capture thieves as they get to work.
Boost Security with SkyBitz
SkyBitz is the industry’s leading asset tracking and monitoring provider. Kuantum, the next-generation platform from SkyBitz, combines location-based intelligence with an integrated cargo sensor to accurately report empty/loaded status, along with data from optional wireless sensors. The platform secures assets and cargo, saves fleets time, and increases trailer utilization to maximize capacity and revenue.