The holiday season is here! In this time of gift-giving, shippers are constantly put to the test. With Halloween, Black Friday and Christmas all occurring in the last few months of the calendar year, freight forwarders will be busier than ever shipping electronics, clothing, and various other commodities in 2015.
Yet, despite all of this joyful activity surrounding the holidays, there is one thing preventing shippers and forwarders from celebrating too enthusiastically. FreightWatch International reported 245 cargo thefts between September and December in 2014. Also, according to CTV News, 350 surveillance cameras and several biometric measures were unable to prevent 16 tons of silver, worth $10 million, from being stolen from the Port of Montreal this past September.
Why are shippers such easy targets for thieves during this period? With FreightWatch International also demonstrating that full truckload (FTL) thefts make up a startling 89% of cargo theft in the U.S., it is apparent that security for truckloads is a major weakness, along with fictitious pickups and warehouse thefts. During such a high-volume time as the holidays, it is easy for thieves to take advantage of all of the activity to make off with cargo.
As a result, all forwarding, warehousing and distribution facilities must defend shipments with adequate safety protocols. Start off by being proactive — find out if the cargo delivery dates coincide with your customers' "open" hours and enable GPS tracking. This will help you plan whether any cargo needs to be staged or stored with specific precautions. Then, verify that everything proceeds smoothly by following these instructions for facility and in-transit protection:
Defend your facility
As previously mentioned, cargo stored in warehouse facilities needs to be protected, especially in the likely event the facility is understaffed for the holidays. In this situation:
- Make sure your security alarms and surveillance systems are fully functional. Check if you need to replace any batteries, and keep your backup cellular alarm system up to date.
- Perform perimeter checks (look out for windows, fences, doors, and roofs with weak points that would make it easier for thieves to gain access).
- Ensure the exterior and interior lighting is in good working condition, and even consider leaving more lights on to discourage burglars.
- Use law enforcement as necessary; in other words, confirm that they will respond to all alarm events. If you can, request additional patrols in the area.
- Be thorough — even the most minor details matter. Don't leave cargo outdoors, disconnect all keys from warehouse equipment and keep important documents locked up safely.
Cargo on its way to its destination is not necessarily safe from theft either. Given last year's numbers on FTL cargo theft, shipments may in fact be at their most vulnerable when in transit. Therefore:
- Ensure your driver's records include up-to-date trainings on robbery response and hijack training.
- If, as a driver, you are forced to park, sometimes the rig or loaded trailer will be left unattended. Make it hard to gain access to the cargo by parking in a secure lot or authorized location, locking the trailer doors with industrial strength padlocks and backing the trailer up tight against a wall.
- If you must leave the vehicle at a public facility, make sure your parking space is well lit and monitored. Check on the vehicle as frequently as possible.
- Never leave keys inside the vehicle and put a locking device on the steering wheel.
- Use an embedded covert cargo tracking system with geo-fencing and alert notification capabilities.
As the holidays get closer, stick to these directions to keep your customers' shipments secure. After all, this period should be focused on the transportation of gifts and exciting commodities, not their theft.