For most Americans who celebrated the country's 240th birthday, Independence Day weekend was filled with family, friends, food and fireworks. But if recent history is any guide, it was potentially a period where a number of motor carriers were robbed of their cargo.
"Nearly 120 incidents of cargo theft were reported over the Fourth of July holiday between 2012 and 2015."
Since 2012, the Fourth of July holiday has been one of increased cargo theft for motor carriers, according to a newly released report from analytics business CargoNet. For instance, four years ago from July 2 to July 9, 36 cargo thefts took place nationwide, the report found. Thefts fell in the ensuing years, but remained elevated, totaling 23 in 2013 over the same seven-day stretch, 26 in 2014 and 34 last year.
Commercial truck drivers transport a wide array of deliverables, but consumables are the most targeted for theft, the report detailed. Specifically, food and beverages were the most stolen items from truckers' cargo holds, ahead of kitchen appliances and precious metals such as gold, silver and platinum.
Some thefts even include tractors and trailers, as 70 semi-tractors were pilfered last year and 64 semi-trailers, according to CargoNet's analysis.
Reinforce year-round security
The Fourth of July isn't the only time of year where cargo thefts tend to rise. Holiday periods in general experience elevated levels of cargo theft, as truckers supply retailers with merchandise for special sales events around this time, according to security experts.
Because cargo thefts happen as often as they do during national holidays – according to FreightWatch International, the four-day Thanksgiving weekend results in more cargo theft incidents than any other – they serve as prime opportunities for motor carriers to reinforce and refocus on security measures that ought to be in place year-round
The following are among the recommendations for commercial trucking operations to reduce the risk of cargo theft:
Install security cameras
Virtually everyone has a recording device, as smartphones are ubiquitous. However, the same can't be said for security cameras. Motor carriers should consider installing surveillance equipment so they can monitor who is coming and going. According to CargoNet's analysis, over half of all cargo theft incidents occur in one of three places: parking lots, warehouses and truck stops.
Be extra vigilant on the weekends
Nearly one-third of all reported cargo thefts in the study took place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Typically, truck drivers have weekends off, increasing thieves' opportunity to steal without being noticed. Motor carriers should ensure that their drivers are well-trained so they can properly secure their truck beds.
Secure trailers under lock and key
Speaking of which, padlocks should always be used whenever trucks are parked and unattended. Motor carriers should also check to ensure that the locks already installed on the truck are impenetrable and in good working order.
Never leave keys in the ignition
On hot summer days or cold winter nights, drivers may need to make a quick stop at a corner store or rest station and leave the motor running to keep the cab comfortable. Employees should be reminded that this is never acceptable, as it can dramatically increase the chances of the truck itself or the equipment that it's transporting being stolen.
Have identifying information readily available
The best way to recover pilfered equipment is by knowing its signature features. Motor carriers should have a hard copy of UPC and SKU codes, both for inventory and tracking purposes. Identifying material for trailers, containers and tractors should also be kept in a safe place, where it can be relayed to the proper investigating authorities.
Transportation industry piece brought to you by Marlin Equipment Finance, a nationwide provider of commercial lending solutions for small and mid-size businesses. Marlin's equipment financing and loan products are offered directly to businesses, and through third party vendor programs, which include manufacturers, distributors, independent dealers and brokers in the security, food services, healthcare, information technology, office technology and telecommunications sectors.