Security companies like Danbee provide pre-clearance of driver routes, consulting with senior drivers in order to ensure that company trucks are moving along the safest possible routes and not areas that will leave them vulnerable to hijacking. These routes also include areas that have been cleared as safe for the drivers to use as rest stops. "Decisions such as these should not be left up to the drivers themselves," says Brandman.
Drivers should also be trained on proper security guidelines, including how to park their trucks at a rest stop (where they can see it while they're in a diner) and how to perform a walk around the vehicle once they get back to it, to ensure no one has marked it.
In addition, they should watch when they leave a rest area to make sure they're not being followed, as well as be aware of suspicious activities around refueling areas, bridges and tunnels. They should maintain regular contact with dispatchers and not discuss their cargo, route or destinations with anyone. When stopped at red lights, they should be aware of anyone approaching their vehicle. Drivers should also get in the practice of keeping doors locked and windows rolled up at all times until they exit the vehicle.
"On-the-ground observation and information provided by drivers to dispatchers is one of the most important keys to preventing theft," says Fletcher R. Hall, president of FR Hall and Associates, a Potomac, MD-based public affairs firm specializing in agricultural transportation and food security.
"There are four essential security watch words for drivers: one is awareness-be aware of what's going on around you. Two is recognition-know how to spot a potential threat. Three is communication-know who to contact, should something happen. Four is action-don't keep the information to yourself. Immediately report it."
"You find that a good percentage of truck thefts that take place in transit are the result of driver negligence, not following proper procedure," Danbee's Brandman adds.
GPS Telematics Keep Fleets Under Control
Newer technologies are increasingly being applied in the war on cargo theft. Technologies such as GPS tracking systems have definitely improved the ability of fleet managers to track their trucks over the road and onboard telematics systems are making it easier to recover trucks once they've been stolen.
Ryder, for instance, has entered into an alliance with Teletrac and Cingular Wireless to create RydeSmart, an advanced onboard telematics technology which is designed to improve highway safety, cargo security and real-time tracking of customer fleet operations. The system uses Teletrac's GPS system, combined with Cingular's nationwide wireless data coverage area. RydeSmart is a hardware and software unit that is installed in a truck and continuously monitors the vehicle's location, mileage and speed. It communicates to the fleet operator's desktop computer every 15 minutes.
However, many professional cargo thieves are usually one or two steps ahead of the security safeguards that companies are implementing, notes Brandman. "For example, most GPS systems operate by line of sight, meaning their antennae has to see the sky in order to send tracking information. What professional cargo thieves will do is disconnect a GPS antenna the moment they steal a truck, thereby thwarting the system. In response, GPS manufacturers have tried to overcome this by concealing their antennas in the safety lights atop a truck's cab."
He says that professional cargo theft rings are very astute, however. They know exactly where to find the concealed antennas.
This is why security professionals prefer cellular assisted GPS units. They don't require line of sight to a satellite, have no visible antennas and can be put in trailers or mixed with a truck's cargo in order to prevent it from being found.
"We've also seen very good results with GPS units that can accommodate remote disabling devices, which enable the remote dispatch office, once they become convinced that a vehicle's been stolen, to gradually slow it down and bring it to a halt," explains Danbee's Brandman.