Cargo Security Measures Expanded

UPS announced today it is expanding its policy to require customers who ship packages from its retail shipping locations — The UPS Store and Mail Boxes Etc. — to present a government-issued ID for verification of identification.

Consumers who ship through any retail access location and do not already have a pre-printed shipping label attached will have to present a government-issued photo ID or they will not be allowed to use UPS services. The ID policy has been in place at UPS Customer Centers since 2005, according to a UPS press release.

Normally, I'd rail against any measure that inconveniences me, let alone requires an ID to use a service. If I am willing to pay for a service, isn't that enough? But this is the new normal, and I commend UPS for doing what it said it was going to do: continue to review its security measures and adopt best practices as necessary.

Ever since the public protests of airport pat-downs — which turned out to be isolated incidents — there's been a lot of media coverage about security measures. In a recent Newsweek, there was a column written by a former security consultant for Israel's airline system. The gist of the article was, technology is good, but it is no replacement for looking someone in the eye and assessing behavior. Yes, this can be seen as profiling. Let's explore that another day.

The electronics supply chain ships a lot of cargo, and by necessity that's mixed with parcels sent by non-businesses. So whether I like it or not, checking ID is an appropriate measure to take to secure cargo — as long as it is part of an overall security system, which UPS says it is.

“Since retail centers experience a significant increase in business from occasional shippers during the busy holidays, this enhancement adds a prudent step in our multi-layered approach to security,” says Dale Hayes, UPS vice president of small business and retail marketing. “The safety and security of our customers, business partners, and employees is our highest priority, and UPS will continue to implement additional security precautions as necessary.”

Valid forms of identification in the US, according to UPS, include a current state-issued driver's license or Department of Motor Vehicles ID card, US or foreign government-issued passport, US Permanent Resident card, US military ID, or a Native American Tribal photo identification card. Qualifying documentation may vary by country at international retail locations.

10 comments on “Cargo Security Measures Expanded

  1. SP
    December 7, 2010

    Its a good step to ensure safety. I would wonder how come there was no identification needed on retail outlets? Anyone who ships cargo must have clear identity in order to do follow up. This process is good for everyone.

  2. AnalyzeThis
    December 7, 2010

    Well, this should solve all security problems and concerns. As we all know, it is nearly IMPOSSIBLE to forge, say, a driver's license or ID card.

    I mean, it's fairly easy to design a remotely-detonating package bomb. A schoolchild could do it. But to design a fake ID?? Wow. You'd basically have to be a high-ranking government employee to that.

    Kudos to UPS for their brilliant solution!

    [end sarcasm]

  3. Mydesign
    December 8, 2010

        Barbara, all the security measures taken by different agencies from time to time, is for our own saftey only. It’s the duty of a government to always keep national security up and to avoid any illegal activity. When looking from government point of view, ID card issued by any government authority is the only authorized document to prove anybody’s identity. Even though I agree that if anybody needs, they can forge it very easily with the help of latest software. In almost all types of document identification even with security seal also, there are loop holes for the fraudulent peoples.

         In this modern technology era, what is the need for carrying such ‘n’ number of document, causing only inconvenience? In my opinion, Instead of asking such type of identity or any other documents, the government authorities have to adopt most modern technologies like bio-metric systems either by using the finger print or even by retina mapping. This may cause a initial huge expenses for government and other agencies, but consider with national saftey and security, this is the only tamper proof mechanism.

  4. Barbara Jorgensen
    December 8, 2010

    There are definitely a lot of shortcomings to the plan. IDs are easily faked and people with valid IDs no doubt try to ship explosives through the mail. However, if the IDs are checked against a database, such as the TSA's watch list, it might prevent something from happening. Although UPS doesn't discuss it's “layered” security system, that's the only way this measure makes any sense.

  5. DBertke
    December 8, 2010

    Hi Barbara,

    While checking IDs for cargo is a way to verify the sender, the real issue involves verification that the cargo is both legal and non lethel.  UPS could much more easily test every box for contraband with a few automated devices in their cargo handling facilities.

    If you check the cargo before it even gets to the first aircraft, then you have proactively ensured the safety of the aircraft, but the crew and the other packages, some of which will mean a great deal to the reciever.  These cargo checks are especially easy since UPS and the other shippers all have automated cargo sorting and distribution anyway.  The additional automated devices would be far more likely to catch Bad stuff than an ID check.

    Since UPS is doing the ID checks, I would highly recommen capturing an image of the sender in addition to the ID.  That way if the ID is indeed faked, the person using it can be better identified and added to the FBI or Interpol persons of interest list.



  6. eemom
    December 8, 2010

    I applaud UPS for adding this security measure.  I think it is great whenever any company takes a step, however small, to add security.  HOWEVER, I'm not sure I understand how this solves any problem.  If someone is trying to ship something illegal or an explosive, they are certainly not going to supply their real ID, and they are not going to supply a fake ID that would get flagged by the TSA database.  They are putting too much faith in the person behind the counter in these stores.  The problem is the box itself, are they using whatever measures possible to ensure that the contents are safe?

  7. Barbara Jorgensen
    December 8, 2010

    Thanks for all the feedback–the shortcomings of ID are legion.

    In conversations with carriers and in doing research, my sense is that there is automated screening of cargo at numerous points in the transit process. The problem is not every single item is scanned, x-rayed or whatever process they use. It may be randomly slected or in pre-determined intervals–I'm not sure. Carriers are very close-mouthed when it comes to their processes, although UPS says its system is multi-layered.

    Depending on whoever is checking the ID is also a big drawback as many of you pointed out. At this time of year, these folks are harried, stressed out and unless UPS provided training, not security experts. At least at airports you now expect delays. I feel for those folks.

  8. elctrnx_lyf
    December 12, 2010

    Even though there is lot of shortcomings in the security system the initial move by UPS is sensible. In the future we might see more such moves by the leading companies like FedEx, DHL and UPS. But the cost that is incurred in placing and maintaining such a huge system can lead to the increase in the charges that consumer has to bear.

  9. AnalyzeThis
    December 16, 2010

    Just a bit of an update on this: yesterday, I shipped something via UPS, and they did ask for my ID, as expected.

    But as a bit of a surprise to me, this exchange also occurred (paraphrased, I didn't keep an exact transcript):

    Employee: What is in the package?

    Me: Ummm… it's a gift. [I was a bit taken aback by this question]

    Employee: Yes, but what is it? We need to know what is in the package.

    Apparently, you also now need to declare the contents of the shipment. The description I gave was even written on the invoice.

    Another brilliant form of security, if you ask me. All terrorists are honest, and if asked what is in the package, they will surely answer, “a bomb.”

    USPS has a similar policy — the whole “does your package contain anything liquid, perishable, etc.” — and while similarly easy to circumvent, it's more useful and less invasive than demanding to know specifically what you're shipping.

  10. Barbara Jorgensen
    December 16, 2010

    DennisQ–thanks for that update. It's not surprising, but disappointing at the same time. It sounds like the classic CYA strategy–in other words, I did what I was supposed to–it's not my fault…

    I had a similar experience yesterday at the airport. In addition to knives, lighters, machetes, guns and other unwelcome items, it appears you can no longer store printer cartridges in your carry-on bags. They were even kind enough to put a picture of a cartridge on a sign inside the circle with the slash, in case there was any doubt what a printer cartridge looked like.

    Luckily, I left mine at home with with my portable printer and my machete

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