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Audits: A Key Strategy in Cargo Theft Prevention

‘Opportunity makes a thief.’  Francis Bacon


Whether or not there was a specific event that happened or it was his general observance

of human behavior, Francis Bacon could not have better described a primary cause of the current and drastic increase of theft and fraud in the transportation industry.


This seventeenth-century philosopher would probably be confounded by today’s vast and complex food transportation system, but he would not be surprised that its role in the supply chain creates ample opportunities for people to steal and cheat.  


It's a mistake to believe that transportation fraud and theft are someone else’s problem.  Recently, in a room full of transportation and legal professionals attending the Transportation and Logistics Council conference, most hands went up when the speaker asked if we or someone we knew had been a target of truck cargo crime.



Crime in the trucking and transportation industry on the rise.

Most of us understand that stealing freight is a crime, but few would classify this type of activity as a lucrative industry of its own, like healthcare, banking, real estate, or insurance. However, cargo theft and fraud have become so profitable that they have now been classified as an industry.


These criminals go to work like the rest of us. They operate with a well-structured plan, a task list, and the necessary tools to execute their operations. They are experts in identifying vulnerable companies and executing their thefts with stealth and precision.


It’s important for all of us in the food supply chain to join the ‘aware and awakened’ campaign. What is going on, and what actions do we need to take?


What are the opportunities that we’ve created and made available to these transportation thieves?


Solution to cargo theft is Staring Us In The Face


When something big and terrible threatens us, we tend to look outside of ourselves to find answers and effective solutions.


Undoubtedly, high-tech tools like...

  • GPS Tracking

  • Geo-Fencing

  • Cameras

Theses are critical components of our defense plans.


We should also use low-tech devices such as...


  • Door Seals

  • Wheel & Kingpin Locks

  • Remote & Keyless Entry Devices

Are all known to deter easy, undetectable theft.


Most food transportation resources provide ideas about the types of processes and training to implement with your teams to help you get started or to improve the plans you already have in place. It’s worth a thirty-minute Google search to educate yourself about gaps or to confirm that you have properly built a safeguarded operation.


Even with these options, it’s important to remember that thieves think tools are cool, too, and many of them have more expertise and experience using them than we do.


But what is happening in our own workplace that may be giving criminals access to our business? Using an audit practice and process, we may find that we have serious problems in our operations and with our people that are making us vulnerable.


Embrace the Audit To Reduce Theft



Audits can be a pain in the neck, but this audit practice will give you a realistic idea of where the holes (opportunities for a thief) are in your process and your training.


Awesome tools, many of which you have already bought and may be using, will not adequately protect you if your plan and team are not cohesive and effective. So now it's time to get to work.



A person doing an audit.

First things first, we should always start with our people. But getting people to agree to the process and the time involved can feel like pushing water up a hill, especially if this isn’t a routine practice in your organization.  


Here at Healthy Trailer, we’ve been working on keeping our ‘why’ at the center of our work.  Connecting the tasks to our overarching purpose reduces the tendency to procrastinate or completely ignore a job that needs to be done.


It’s not bad to say to your group, “People are trying to steal from companies like us. And the thieves are very successful. If they steal from us, the consequences are that we will lose lots of money, which means we will have to lose workers like you. We don’t want this to happen and YOU don’t want this to happen. Here’s the plan.


Second, developing a meaningful and practical plan starts with asking hard questions that have probably been overlooked or ignored. Tasks and procedures that seem boring, mundane, or overkill are probably not.  


  • What are the onboarding procedures that you use for new carriers, suppliers, and customers? 

  • How do you check the facilities (shipping, receiving, drop yards, etc.) where your equipment will be located?  

  • What security vendors have you contracted with, and are they delivering what you need to stay safe? Cyber, technology, physical sites?


Get these questions answered and incorporated into your processes. Spend time with your employees, ask them questions about the processes, and encourage and implement their ideas.


This plan, built on solid protocols, should be written and easily available for review and training

Third, with your written plan and your team on board, train, practice, and repeat.  


Many companies provide minimal or infrequent training and then become frustrated and surprised when protocols are not being followed.   


A friend of mine is an IT manager in a fairly large company. Everyone gets a ton of emails, and as we all know, recognizing spam every day is getting more difficult. We’re all a little ‘click happy,’ aren’t we? Seemingly helpful links can be irresistible because we all need and appreciate the convenience of a short cut. It has taken numerous training sessions and reminders to get the employees to learn to be extra vigilant and resist the click!


Our employees are our front line in protecting our companies from cargo theft and fraud.  Our mantra should be ‘No Shortcuts!’


Fourth, make the right thing easy.  


  • Make sure that your employees have the time and materials to get the job done.  This seems so straightforward, but it’s interesting how often we have a written protocol critical to our process and fail to give our team what they need to do the job.


  • Clarify the purpose of what you are doing and the tasks necessary to complete a protocol.  Ask them to repeat what they think you asked or said, with the intent to clarify your communication, NOT to show them they were wrong and not listening.


  • Encourage them to ask questions and make suggestions.  Include them in discussions because they are doing the work and will have relevant ideas for improvement.


  • Observe the chain of command to ensure that the team is getting support and not neglect or disrespect. This happens more often than we like to acknowledge or admit. Root out the problems and work on the relationships that are causing them.


Audits are a key step in stealing opportunities from thieves who are intent and passionate about growing their illegal businesses.  


As Heatlhy Trailer always recommends, preparation usually trumps procrastination!


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