There are many ways to prevent cargo theft but one of the first rules has to be dead simple:...

There are many ways to prevent cargo theft but one of the first rules has to be dead simple: Don’t let your vehicles be left at risk.

The temptation to write, yet again, about electric trucks and those that sort of drive themselves is compelling. But right now I have the urge to come back down to earth for a spell. Besides, the onset of electric trucks is a given at this point. Autonomous trucks? Not so much.

So I’ve decided to write about an ever-present issue that both carriers and shippers seem to treat as just a cost of doing business, albeit an unwelcome one. I may be exaggerating there, but I think we should all talk more about truck and cargo theft. The latter represents a lot of dough, after all, an estimated $15 billion worth of losses annually in the U.S. alone.

I’m reminded of all this because I still see tractor-trailers or trailers alone parked in odd and risky places. For instance, there’s a supermarket parking lot I sometimes cut through in the middle of the big city that I call home, often at night when the store is closed. And that’s when I frequently see a good-looking old cabover, usually with van trailer attached, lounging about in a corner of this not-terribly-well-lit parking lot. No houses look directly onto it, nor any businesses. Whether it’s loaded or not, this vehicle is vulnerable and then some.

Which leads me to believe that vigilance isn’t universal, even though theft prevention is largely a matter of common sense. Sure, there are modern tricks such as electronic seals and sensors and all manner of tracking tools, but one of the first rules has to be dead simple: Don’t let your vehicles be left at risk in unprotected places.

Some big portion of all cargo theft is a crime of opportunity, usually involving truckload carriers, the rest being carefully planned heists that rely on information about loads and routes garnered by devious means. I don’t have enough space here to discuss those as well, so I’ll stick with the careless and inadvertent invitations that carriers – and often drivers – are prone to offer.

I’m no security expert, but a common-sense reminder about some of the most fundamental security rules might be in order:

Get your drivers in the habit of locking their van-trailer doors. They can all accommodate a padlock or cable lock, yet how often do you actually see them secured? Mind you, drivers can’t be blamed if they haven’t been supplied with a lock in the first place. The simpler locks are readily available, but apparently few trailer customers buy them. 

A kingpin lock can prevent someone from waltzing away with your trailer. But I gather that few fleets use these, either.

And this big one… make sure your drivers understand the virtue of silence. Urge them not to discuss their cargo on the CB, on a cell phone, or at a truck stop.

There’s a zillion other things your drivers can do to minimize the theft risk, and I’d urge you to get them on your side in this fight. Review your rules with them regularly, and if you don’t have rules, make ’em.