TT Talk - Theft - instruct drivers carefully

Freight is arguably most exposed to theft risk during road carriage. Clarity of contracting and instructions are inevitably key mitigations.

Incidents of cargo theft predominantly occur when the vehicle and cargo are at their most vulnerable, whether the vehicle be parked for the driver to take a short break or to take a daily rest period. It is the driver who makes the decision where the vehicle is parked during such periods of vulnerability, so what instructions should be passed to the driver?

Security minded

Many shippers are increasingly risk aware in relation to cargo theft and seek to include prescriptive instructions within contracts as to where they expect trailers with their cargo to be parked at any given time. Instructions may include stipulations around "secure" parking, exclusion zones, double manning the vehicle or the driver never leaving their vehicle whilst loaded. A common requirement is a restriction on sub-contracting without the shipper's prior knowledge and consent; this for many operators can be particularly restrictive.

Operators need to scrutinise contracts to understand the implications of such clauses where they do exist. Where stipulations have the potential to prevent satisfying the contract, it is advisable to engage in discussions to challenge or negotiate the terms, thus avoiding a potential breach of contract situation.

In instances where instructions are received from a customer, it is important to implement robust processes to assess what is required and ensure, as appropriate, that the instructions are passed in their entirety to other stakeholders in the contractual chain. In practice such instructions may need to filter past any immediate sub-contractor, further along the chain to those over whom there is no direct control. Management of these risks can be challenging and involves close consultation with the immediate sub-contractor emphasising the risks of non-compliance - and obtaining confirmation of insurance.

"ensure that instructions are passed in their entirety to other stakeholders in the contractual chain"

Passing the baton securely

Consideration must also be given as to how this flow of information reaches the actual driver, who is ultimately in charge of the truck and where it is parked at any given time, as well as compliance with any working regulations.

However, even where instructions are passed through to the controlling driver, the risk is unfortunately not eradicated; a number of moral and physical hazards continuing to exist. The number of purpose built truck stops and their respective locations, presents the first physical hazard. In many parts of the world there are not enough secure parking locations for the number of trucks requiring such services; thus demand simply outstrips supply.

The cost of parking at such a facility is a moral hazard. Where profit margins are particularly low, the truck operator has to decide whether to ensure the vehicle is parked within a secure but costly site or allow the driver to elect where to park; risk versus cost.

Many jurisdictions enforce a maximum number of working and driving hours on truck drivers. In practice, and in terms of available parking locations, this legislation limits options for the driver especially where unforeseen delays occur.

The productivity of the vehicle is a hazard often overlooked. Truck operators strive to optimise their earning potential by utilising the maximum number of available driving hours to reach a given destination. It may be that a driver's available driving and working time will enable them to reach a delivery point earlier than planned.

Drivers will present themselves at the delivery point with the hope of being unloaded ahead of the scheduled booking time/ date. Frequently drivers are turned away by the consignee for a variety of operational or capacity reasons.

Additionally, the consignee is unlikely to have the available space on site to allow the truck and/ or trailer to park. There may also be issues such as restrictions on insurance cover to store cargo in this way.

This places the driver, whose available driving and working time may be expired, in a challenging situation. The driver may now be obliged to park in the area immediately outside the consignee's premises. Since criminal organisations invest hours profiling the movement of goods through the supply chain, it can be safely assumed that there will be high awareness of the nature of goods being delivered to certain consignees. Therefore, where theft attractive cargoes are concerned, trucks parked in the immediate vicinity of the consignee become an obvious target for theft.

One possibly helpful option here is for the driver to request that the consignee log their arrival time and date and record the fact that the driver has been turned away from the premises.

Careful planning is required to balance productivity and security of the vehicle each night. A sound knowledge of the country and secure parking locations is vital; lack of knowledge can lead to a driver unwittingly placing a cargo at risk of theft.

"lack of knowledge can lead to a driver unwittingly placing cargo at risk of theft"

Where secure parking options are unavailable, a driver should seek to make the vehicle as difficult as possible to access. Reversing the vehicle up to a wall or immovable object in a high traffic, well-lit area, preferably covered by obvious CCTV cameras will assist in reducing the incidence of theft.

We hope that you have found the above interesting. If you would like further information, or have any comments, please email us, or take this opportunity to forward to any colleagues who you may feel would be interested.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Michael Yarwood

Senior Loss Prevention Executive, TT Club

Staff Author

TT Club