“They’ll look for a long-haul load that’s going to take two to four days in transit, or a load they can pick up on a Friday, so there’s time before anyone suspects a problem,” Hall explains. “They’ll look for a last-second load or an expedited load or one that requires team drivers. They’re not necessarily targeting the high-dollar load. They’re taking advantage of people who are in a hurry and not paying close attention.”
Step #2 Put Load Board Tools to Work
Thieves typically use publicly available information about a carrier—one that’s either in business or defunct—to build a false identity. Their tactics can be remarkably simple: if a bad guy sees that “Quality Trucking” is a carrier you know well, he might set up shop as “Quality Trucking Express,” complete with a phone number and web domain that’s just close enough to fool you into tendering a load.
When a carrier makes initial contact with you, look at its caller ID. If necessary, verify its authenticity with a return phone call to the phone number listed by the FMCSA, and ask to speak with your contact by name so you know he or she works there.
Load boards can facilitate best practices in carrier qualification in two ways: by verifying the credentials of all participants, ensuring that they are legitimate businesses; and by providing load board customers with the tools and data they need to pursue their own due diligence procedures comprehensively, quickly, and efficiently.
“If you use a load board, ask what data is available to help verify that the person you’re dealing with is a bona fide representative of the carrier,” Greene says. DAT, which facilitates more that 88 million freight transactions a year, maintains the DAT Directory, a repository of carrier information including DOT authority, CSA safety ratings, insurance coverage, and current contact information. Brokers and shippers search the DAT Directory more than 500,000 times per month (or more than 16,000 times every day) in their efforts to verify that carriers are properly credentialed.
“Load boards collect a tremendous amount of information that can help shippers and brokers verify that a carrier is a legitimate business,” Greene says. “Ask what’s available and put that information to use.”
Step #3 Verify Insurance
Insist on an insurance certificate directly from the insurance agent, not the carrier, and verify that the agent is legitimate. Use a reverse phone lookup to check that the agent’s phone/fax number actually belongs to an insurance agent, not an accomplice posing as one. Better yet, use a third-party service to verify insurance, or ask your load board what it can do for you. For example, DAT offers a service called CarrierWatch where brokers can view and/or download digital images of insurance certificates verified by carriers’ insurance providers; Greene says more than half of DAT’s broker customers now use the service to confirm coverage details.
Step #4 Check the MC Number
The vast majority of new carriers are legitimate, but check business references and be especially vigilant with carriers that have a brand new operating authority (Motor Carrier Numbers beginning with “7”). Companies that ditch their old authority and start with a clean slate under a new MC number are known as “chameleon” carriers. “I was investigating a cargo theft case and the carrier involved shared an address with no fewer than 148 other MC and MX numbers, as well as a registration and insurance service,” says Greene.
Step #5 Meet the Driver
Ask the driver directly for the name and number on the side of the truck and verify that he is employed by the carrier you hired.
“I’ve had victims of identity-related cargo theft say to me that everything looked good on paper but something was ‘off‘ with the driver or the equipment,” Hall says. “I had one where someone stole the identity of a very well-known truckload carrier and showed up with a flatbed trailer to pick up a load of tablet computers. The guys at the dock loaded him up because, well, he had all his papers.”