Disrupting the inside job

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The recent theft and disappearance of 63 AR-15 Colt riflesbeing shipped from Hartford, CT, to a gun dealer in Shreveport, LA, highlights one of the more worrisome aspects of cargo theft these days: the use of inside information -- and even employee cooperation -- to plan and carry out such heists.

While the four people arrested so far in the now two-week old disappearance of those high-powered rifles are not employees of Con-way Inc., which hauled this load, the ability of the thieves to pluck one pallet of AR-15s from a five-pallet shipment of the weapons while in transit is pretty striking.

Indeed, if a sharp-eyed Con-way employee hadn’t taken the time to eyeball the shipment, rather than merely scan it and move it along, that missing pallet might have gone unreported even longer.

That’s why clamping down on the ability to gain “inside intelligence” on freight shipments is becoming a bigger issue for trucking as the industry continues to battle cargo thieves.

Consulting firm FreightWatch, for example, recently addressed this issue in its third quarter cargo theft update, noting that thefts committed by drivers have been more or less on the rise in volume since 2009, with a sharp increase from 2011 to September 2013.

“Typically it is a crime of opportunity [as] thefts by drivers fluctuate in value year on year,” the firm noted. “Already at an all-time high with 40 incidents logged in the first three quarters of 2013, 67% higher than all of 2012, these thefts are expected to continue to rise through the year, as the historically high-volume fourth quarter is upon us.”

FreightWatch added that driver thefts typically occur on relatively low-security product types, with food and beverages being a particular favorite.

“As a matter of fact, food/drinks were the highest targeted product type in driver thefts in all years but 2011, when it tied for top spot,” the firm said in its report. “Metals, also low-security products and notoriously difficult to trace, is another hot commodity among unscrupulous drivers.”

Notably, however, several product types are missing from the driver theft repertoire in 2013, including two categories with typically higher-than-average security in place: pharmaceuticals and electronics.

“The lack of driver thefts in these high-value products is another indicator of the opportunistic nature of this type of incident,” FreightWatch noted. “The absence of thefts in the clothing/shoes and home/garden categories, however, could be explained by a number of factors, including higher security on these higher-value loads, traceability of the cargo or the overall low volume of these shipments, making for a statistical improbability of these loads being paired up with an unscrupulous driver.”

Something to keep in mind as the fight against cargo theft continues.

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