Shipper — Whitepaper
There is no doubt that supply chains are complex, and this complexity creates vulnerability. Unfortunately, we live in an age where a growing number of people are looking to exploit these vulnerabilities, resulting in an unacceptable level of cargo thefts. For some shippers, the cost of the products stolen may be the smallest part of the issue. Many shippers, including food and pharmaceutical manufacturers, are at risk of losing even more when it comes to product safety, brand reputation and lost opportunity at the store shelf. In fact, given the regulations from the FDA and other agencies, one successful theft could result in a full product recall that will exponentially increase the cost to any organization.
The thieves are getting smarter, more aggressive and more selective in their targets. They now excel at identifying the loads that carry high-value goods. Plus, their techniques for pulling off the heist have grown so sophisticated that it takes a lot more than a simple lock to stop them.
According to CargoNet’s annual report, cargo thefts industry-wide numbered 1,427 in 2020. That equates to an average of 119 truckload theft incidents each month in the United States.
For the first time in several years, CargoNet recorded an increase in theft. The COVID-19 pandemic created an excellent environment for cargo thieves.
The increases in theft were significant; theft increased 29% year-over-year. The average cargo theft was worth $166,334 in 2020 and increased $27,045 from 2019 in part due to increased pharmaceuticals and medical supplies shipment thefts related to the COVID-19 pandemic as reported by CargoNet. Shippers and carriers must remain vigilant against thieves’ growing sophistication. Taking advantage of opportunities to enhance security practices remains key.
Shippers often assume their carriers and intermodal providers are doing everything possible to prevent cargo theft. That assumption, in itself, is dangerous. There are countless opportunities to reduce risk and secure a supply chain throughout the life of a load – whether it’s moving on the road or on the rail. Shippers who are aware of these measures can, and should, hold their carriers accountable for executing tested best practices.
Carriers with a culture that revolves around reducing risk in every area of the business have shown a decline in freight thefts – some by as much as 75% in recent years.
For some carriers, the solution to improving security is as simple as moving high-value freight via expedited team services. More sophisticated carriers know that creating a culture of safety and security (for drivers and freight), continuous attention to basic security practices and a commitment to supply chain process refinement also play a role in keeping freight safe and secure.
Security actions generally fall into three categories:
To better demonstrate the overlap of these dimensions and the integration required for a secure move, let’s break them down by type of move (truckload and intermodal) and phase of movement (load tender, pickup, transit, and delivery).
Nearly 64% of freight moved across the border makes its way from point of origin to point of destination (and sometimes, many places in between) via truck. That’s a lot of freight to track and keep safe, but it can be done.
A secure move begins before the load even moves: at the point when the shipper tenders the freight to the chosen carrier.
Secure deliveries require secure practices at pickup.
While the load is with the driver(s), many important practices must be followed.
Just because the driver makes it to the consignee doesn’t mean the job is done.
The growth of intermodal freight movements means more thieves target the railroads as well. If managed correctly, freight can move securely and safely via this mode.
An intermodal move starts the same way as a truckload move – with a customer sending the load information to the carrier. But the way to keep an intermodal load secure differs drastically from its counterpart mode, and those differences occur almost immediately.
Special procedures are called for to make sure the container stays safe while in transit via rail.
The final part of the intermodal move can provide the most risk. It’s important to keep security top of mind at every point in the move, especially in the final miles.
As you can see, there is no metaphorical silver bullet to ensuring freight security. Whether your cargo travels over-the-road or via intermodal, there are multiple security solutions for each phase of the move. Shippers and carriers who only use one security technique for each phase of the supply chain leave plenty of room for risk or error throughout. It’s the combination of actions that yields effectiveness in stopping cargo thefts.
Think about each of the solutions outlined previously as layers of security. When they are strategically layered one on top of the other, they cover up the holes that exist in the individual layers. That’s why it’s critically important that you work with carriers and intermodal providers to ensure there are multiple security checkpoints along every step in the supply chain. If you’re not layered in your efforts, you’re more likely to lose the load.
Technology has revolutionized the transportation industry over recent decades and has altered almost everything about the shipping process. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are some sophisticated technological tools that play a role in keeping freight visible and safe. Here are a few:
As fantastic as these technological solutions sound, notice that the only technology absolutely necessary to carry out the procedures recommended here involves relatively low-tech systems: phones, computers, and perhaps in-cab communication devices. While technology can aid in keeping your freight secure, it’s by no means a replacement for basic, commonsense processes and good, old-fashioned communication. When your carrier has perfected these two elements, your merchandise will be far safer than anything being hauled by a company that relies mainly on the latest technology.
Ensuring that your carrier follows the practices described here is a huge step toward tightening the security of your freight and minimizing risk. However, it’s only half the battle. If the carrier doesn’t wholeheartedly commit to instilling a culture of security among its associates, there will undoubtedly be gaps at other points in the supply chain. These include:
Maintaining a high level of security must influence every single business decision a carrier makes. Ask your carriers the hard questions about their commitment to safe and secure operations, and be sure you get the right answers before that carrier is tendered a load.
While safely and securely shipping your product from point A to point B will never be as carefree as it once was, you can increase security of your shipments. All it takes is engagement in the process. Work with your carrier to identify and close the gaps in your supply chain security. Collaborate with your internal team and with the providers who touch your freight. Finally, anticipate the continually changing security environment and be ready to adapt. You and your carriers will have to continually evolve your procedures to stay one step ahead of the thieves.
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