TT Talk - Mitigating the risk of theft in transit

Much of the crime risk in the international supply chain is associated with land-based operations. The most exposed - or least able to be controlled - is road transport.

Key security

Key theft is a commonly used strategy in vehicle crime. Therefore, a robust key control policy needs to be in place to ensure vehicles are locked when not attended, no matter how short the period of time. Even the shortest of periods such as fuelling or checking the load space can be enough to compromise security.

"Key theft is a commonly used strategy in vehicle crime"

Whenever keys are away from the vehicle ensure that they are stored in a secure place. It is common to have a locked key safe to store vehicle keys; where drivers have keys overnight or for the weekend, ensure that they have means to keep them secure. Consideration in this regard should also be given to vehicles which are not intended to be used on the public highway.

Reducing vehicle crime

Assess where vehicles are parked when not in use. Are they locked in your operating premises or do employees on occasion take vehicles home? Where vehicles are parked away from your facility overnight or over the weekend, insist that all valuables are removed from the vehicle and consider the use of signage stating that no valuables are kept in the vehicle.

Consider how your vehicle is branded; if the branding serves to illustrate the type of cargo you may be carrying, the potential risk may outweigh the reward. Consider keeping the vehicle as plain as possible.

On board diagnostic ports exist in most new vehicles; primarily used by technicians to access service and maintenance data, the port can also be accessed to generate replacement keys for the vehicle. Criminal organisations are now using this to reprogramme keys, providing unrestricted access. Install devices to secure access to the port, restricting use to the intended legitimate function.

Immobilising & tracking

Many modern vehicles are fitted with immobilisers which can drastically reduce vehicle crime; there are also many aftersales alarm options which should be considered when purchasing and operating vehicles.

Assess the security for unattended trailers. Apart from the obvious risk of cargo loss, consider also the theft of the asset itself. Use of an airline lock, preventing the release of the trailer brakes, is one strategy to be adopted. More advanced options are available, such as driver recognition through the use of a key fob in order to release the trailer brakes. A further security option is a king pin lock, preventing the coupling of a tractor unit, therefore making the trailer difficult to move.

Whilst there may be specific national requirements, operators may consider roof markings for their vehicles. These can make your vehicle easily identifiable from the air by emergency services in the event of a theft or hijack incident.

Vehicle tracking devices can assist in the identification and recovery of stolen vehicles, although be aware that jamming devices are also commonly available to prevent the tracking device communicating effectively. Covert alarm systems, such as driver panic buttons, could be effective in the early warning of a hijacking. Security providers have also developed devices which can be triggered by unusual behaviour; once triggered the performance of the vehicle can be degraded, limiting speed or even simulating a breakdown of the vehicle.

Many vehicles are now fitted with CCTV cameras externally, the installation of in vehicle CCTV equipment should also be considered. Advanced systems can provide operators with remote monitoring capability and live streaming of images.

Employment practices

Vetting mobile personnel is inherently challenging, especially in regions where there is a shortage of drivers; the risks are heightened where short term temporary staff are concerned and at peak periods. At the interview stage, vehicle operators need to obtain original identification documents, their national ID and driver's licence. Do not accept photocopies, but do take copies for your records.

Check for inconsistencies and ensure that images match the applicant's physical appearance. Ensure that driving licences permit the specific duties required, and that they remain valid and have not expired. Do not take chances - always resolve discrepancies; if an applicant cannot provide the required information, do not allow access to your assets.

"Do not take chances - always resolve discrepancies"

For permanent personnel, only offer employment subject to satisfactory references, a criminal record check and, if appropriate, a health check. It is also highly recommended that operators develop a drugs and alcohol policy, and consider introducing random testing. Where such testing is employed, records should be kept of tests undertaken to demonstrate compliance.

Maintain employment records assiduously (for both new and existing staff). For drivers, regular checks of licences should be undertaken to protect your business; where reliance on a clean licence is required for a livelihood, it is not uncommon for an individual to elect not to inform their employer of personal traffic offences.

An example of further information on supply chain security can be found in the

Cargo and Road Transport Security (CART) Guide


Staff Author

TT Club