Canadian Security Magazine

Transport truck theft on the rise

Jennifer Brown   

News Transportation

Companies who ship goods by transport truck say law enforcement doesn’t give cargo theft enough attention and is doing a poor job of keeping statistics on a crime that can feed larger problems like terrorism.

Speaking at a recent ASIS Toronto Transportation and Cargo Security
conference, Mark O’Connor, director of security and compliance with
Kuehne+Nagel, said lack of support from police agencies and the lack of
a coordinated effort only enables the problem to continue to grow.

“The biggest issue in our industry today is the fact there is a lack of
support from local law enforcement across Canada,” said O’Connor.
“There is no connection or means to share information back and forth.
As security professionals we find it a big challenge in that the police
don’t have time to investigate cargo crime even though cargo theft is
proven to be related to other crimes like terrorism.”

O’Connor says criminals often target transport trailers because they
know the contents are probably commodity goods that can likely be
quickly sold for cash. And often the thefts are brazen acts — in some
cases, trucks have been stolen as employees are in the truck unloading
it at a warehouse.

“It’s easy money for a crook — they can steal $100,000 worth of TVs,
soap, batteries or ketchup and quickly sell it on the black market,” he


The primary industries targeted by transport truck cargo theft include
pharmaceuticals, electronics, high-end clothing and tobacco, but a
tractor-trailer load of diapers is just as attractive and easily
disposed of for cash.
Security professionals trying to fight the problem say what they hear
from law enforcement is that gun crime or fraud take priority.

Police in Peel Region such as detective Steve Arney are among only a
handful of officers who keep regular stats on investigating cargo
theft. Often thefts in that region occur from unprotected lots where
there is little to no surveillance taking place. Arney jokes that the
biggest “shopping centre” for transport truck thieves is the Dixie and
Steeles area.

And even when Peel does get a conviction, often the sentence is minor.
Only recently have police in Hamilton started keeping separate
statistics on transport truck cargo theft. Before, officers lumped it
in with motor vehicle theft.

The problem is also that companies simply file an insurance claim —
insurance companies pay out those claims and the company can have
trucks back on the road. It is estimated that $50 billion a year is
lost from cargo theft (including loss of cargo, insurance, replacing
those goods stolen and the cost of investigation).

O’Connor says the industry is trying to improve the way it shares information.

“There are no silver bullets. It has to be a layered approach; you have
to know whom you are dealing with and that means properly vetting who
your partners are. We don’t own trucks — we need to know who is
touching our goods whether it’s a mom and pop operation or the largest
trucking firm in Canada,” he says.

Background checks, improved perimeter security, better surveillance and
improved security at gate house checkpoints are all means the industry
is trying to put in place to reduce the risk of cargo theft. Often
locks, seals and other means of securing a truckload can easily be
defeated and may give thieves an indication the load is of value.

Some trucking lines are using GPS units to try and track their
tractor-trailer loads should they go missing, however thieves are
finding ways around the technology.

In some cases, thieves know to look for GPS units and have been known
to cover them with aluminum foil to block security tracking. However,
when put together with a good driver awareness program, they can help
secure loads.

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