On Friday afternoon, freight needs to move, fast. A shipper, frantic to find a truck, hooks up with a motor carrier on a load board. They agree to terms, and a truck is dispatched to pick up the load. The only problem is that truck isn’t from the party that accepted the load. That “company” double-brokered the shipment to a legitimate trucker. The load goes one way, the money goes another, and the motor carrier that delivers the freight winds up with nothing.
Now try this scenario: A trucker shows up at the dock and takes the shipment — straight to the black market. Perhaps the fact the truck driver wouldn’t show his CDL when asked or the name painted on his cab door was spelled “ABC Truking” should have tipped off someone this was a fictitious firm using a stolen carrier identity to grab a load of goods.
There must be a million ways to steal a shipment, especially on a Friday, according to Keith Lewis, vice president of operations at CargoNet, a cargo crime tracking and security subsidiary of Verisk Crime Analytics. Everyone else may be working for the weekend, but cargo thieves work all weekend long. Seventy to 75 percent of all cargo thefts occur during the weekend, with Friday being prime time for cargo crime, Lewis said at the 40th annual Transportation & Logistics Council conference March 18.
In 2013, 25 percent of those thefts occurred at a warehouse or distribution center, 20 percent at a truck stop and 18 percent at a parking lot, according to CargoNet. Another 10 percent occurred at what police reports described as “secured” yards. “The famous last words are, ‘but I’ve parked there for years,’” Lewis said. “And if your freight is stolen from a secured yard, guess what — that’s not a secured yard.”
One way to avoid becoming a victim: change the day you ship. “Why are we shipping on Friday for Monday delivery, when we’re only going 300 miles?” asked Lewis, a former law enforcement official with decades of experience with freight and cargo crime — his father once owned a Chicago trucking company. “We take the shipment from our facility, where we’ve got cameras and gate security, give it to a trucker who drives it to a destination and drops it in a parking lot, and then goes home.” By Monday, the trailer or goods are long gone. The theft may occur on Friday night, but it’s not reported until Monday, if at all.
“A lot of people don’t report cargo theft,” Lewis told the approximately 300 shippers, truckers, brokers and transportation attorneys at the T&LC meeting in Nashville, Tenn. “It’s embarrassing. Nobody wants to tell the shipper somebody stole from us, or that I have a dishonest dock person stealing big screen televisions. So it just shows up as a shortage and you pay the freight claim and move forward.”