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Loss Prevention

Knowledge is Power

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Nearly every retailer that distributes goods has experienced cargo theft.
Bill Anderson, group director of international safety, health and security for Ryder System, recently spoke with STORES contributor Liz Parks about the most common ways these thefts happen and how retailers can minimize their exposure to them.

Can you describe how cargo thieves typically strike?
The majority of crimes … are committed by organized criminals who target specific loads. They go after … items that they have a market for. They move quickly and they attack frequently.

A much smaller percent of cargo thefts are opportunistic: Someone sees an unattended truck and they take the opportunity to grab whatever is in easy reach and run.

How do the organized thieves pick their targets?
They will survey distribution centers and sometimes they get inside information about what a truck will be carrying, when it will be moving and to where.

Four or five individuals often follow a targeted truck. ... When the driver makes a pit stop, one member of the team follows him and another will watch the off ramp for police. … While the driver’s away, the other team members break into the truck … and drive it to a secluded spot where they can unload it and drive away with the cargo.

They also do a “drop and hook.” This is when a cargo trailer that is awaiting pick-up by a legitimate carrier is instead retrieved by a fraudulent carrier.

Can retailers count on the police to help catch the thieves?
These are hard cases for the police and prosecutors. … When the shipper, carrier and destination are all in different jurisdictions from where the crime occurred, it can be difficult to get law enforcement and prosecutors interested in the case.

What can retailers do to minimize cargo thefts?
The transportation industry is very cost conscious, so when there is an opportunity to get low rates, retailers will often take it. But they may not know the carrier. The bidder may be using a fictitious identity so a retailer needs to always verify the identity of the person and carrier making the bid.

[Retailers should call] the carrier company directly to confirm the person bidding actually works there, and … the insurance company to verify the bidder’s policy, dates, limits and carrier contact information.

What are some of the best practices that retailers can adopt to maximize security?
Be aware of surveillance being conducted on your facility’s operation. Watch for signs such as vehicles parked outside your facility, individuals with cameras or taking notes outside your facility, unauthorized personnel inside the facility or walking the perimeter.

Do not share information on cargo or operations with anyone except those involved in the operation. … Maintain inventory control.

Know the carrier and driver that are scheduled to pick up your cargo and verify their identity before a load is released. Monitor delivery schedules and routes; treat suspiciously any overdue shipments or out-of-route journeys. Review the security of your supply chain partners ...

Keep trucks locked and park them in an organized manner on a well-lit facility lot. Communicate to driver teams that one person must remain with the vehicle at all times.

Rigorous pre-employment screening will help weed out those most likely to steal merchandise. After screening, communicate security awareness information and location-specific rules to employees and carriers, and regularly provide security training.