Transportation is no easy task

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The horror unfolding in the Ukraine right now concerning the apparent shoot-down of a Malaysian jetliner – killing some 298 passengers and crew, including three infants, according to news reports – is perhaps the starkest reminder yet that the commercial transportation business via air, land, or sea is no easy or safe task, regardless of how simple it may seem on the surface.

We’ve grown so accustomed in the modern age to fast global travel and cargo shipment capability that most people take such service for granted – complaining about delays, uncomfortable seats, and myriad other issues.

[Comedian Louis C.K. targeted this mindset in a hilarious visit with Conan O’Brien a while back.]

Yet transportation risk never goes away – and often taking it for granted increases the risks tenfold. Recall the disaster that claimed the cruise ship Costa Concordia almost three years ago. An ill-advised attempt to provide a nighttime “salute” to the Italian island of Giglio ended up running the massive ship aground, killing 32 and eventually leading to the largest maritime salvage operation in history at a cost (just so far) of $1.5 billion.

The shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 (which was a Boeing 777 model, like the one at right) is a whole different kettle of fish though – the destruction of a passenger jet by a surface-to-air missile probably due to misidentification of the aircraft by the forces locked in combat on the ground 30,000 feet below it.

Where the transport of goods is concerned, however, the threat of cargo theft remains a growing concern – especially in nations like Mexico, where a truck carrying radioactive material went missing for a heart-stopping few days.

And cargo thieves don’t take time off either. For example, FreightWatch International noted in a recent brief that holiday weekends are notorious for showing increased cargo theft risks for transportation companies, shippers, and manufacturers. 

“Organized theft rings are active and understand holiday weekends cause shipments to be unattended for extended periods of time,” the firm said. “Thefts occurring over Independence Day weekends between 2010 and 2013 had an average value of $257,016, with nine separate incidents involving cargo valued over $250,000 recorded during this period.”

FreightWatch also compiled a list of some notable thefts from Fourth of July holiday weekends over the past several years as well:

  • $2.5 million TL theft of cell phones in Miami, FL
  • $406,000 TL theft of medical equipment in Duval, FL
  • $80,000 theft from trailer of OTC medication in Cedar Rapids, IA
  • $500,000 facility burglary of televisions in Medley, FL

Indeed, it is such concerns about the growth of cargo theft that convinced Penske Logistics recently to join forces with CargoNet to beef up freight management security practices for Penske’s shipper customers. CargoNet, a division of Verisk Crime Analytics, uses a national database and information-sharing system managed by crime analysts and subject-matter experts.

“We joined CargoNet to provide us with greater visibility across different states and regions of the U.S.,” explained Aaron Henderson, Penske’s director of loss prevention, in a statement. “It allows us to better identify areas that require additional security and when a theft does take place we’re able to move quickly to recover the assets.”

It’s just another reminder that risk never takes a holiday in the transportation world, no matter how routine moving people and goods across the U.S. and around world might seem on the surface.

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