Background Checks. By now, everyone must have an understanding on how necessary background checks are to a supply chain security program. The strict scrutiny of potential employees is critical to eliminating losses.

Locks. Do not underestimate the value of a good lock on the back of a loaded trailer. I do an informal survey as I drive into work on the New Jersey Turnpike each morning. I find that almost 70 percent of loaded trailers have a seal, but no lock on their load. By strictly enforcing our lock policy, we have almost completely eliminated thefts in transit.

GPS Tracking. For years, trucking companies have been able to tell you where the tractor that is pulling your merchandise is at any given time. That information proved useful in making sure that just-in-time shipments were, in fact, just in time. However, for many reasons, this technology often proved useless in the event of an in-transit theft or hijacking. The first thing a thief will do is to disable the GPS unit in a matter of seconds, which he has previously already learned how to do. Furthermore, many thefts occur after the tractor is disconnected from the trailer and another power unit is attached to make sure that no other tracking devices can possibly be used.

In the past when this happened, freight was lost—until we got tracking for our trailers. These systems, made by GE, Qualcomm, and other manufacturers, give us the ability to track a trailer’s location without being attached to a tractor. Although far from commonplace in the industry as a whole, many carriers are outfitting their entire fleets with this technology. Ask your service provider about it.

Partnering with Law Enforcement

Even when you have everything in place, you will still encounter problems. There will always be thieves. Thieves will always come up with new ways to thwart technology, and technology always has some percentage of failure. When this occurs, your relationships with law enforcement around the country will be your last chance for a successful recovery.

Critical Strategy Components

Based on our experience, following are some key items to consider when developing a supply chain security program for your company.

Communication Is Critical. Effective intelligence gathering and information sharing is a critical part of any supply chain security program. In many cases, law enforcement will recover a vehicle with all of the contents stolen long before the theft is reported to local agencies. While there is a definite need for timely cargo theft information sharing between law enforcement agencies, you can help the process by promptly reporting thefts to enforcement officials.

Don’t React Passively to Loss. After a theft has been committed, have it thoroughly investigated rather than simply filing a police report or insurance claim. Because many companies do not aggressively investigate, cargo thieves strike with little or no concern for being caught. In fact, crime rings often focus on the same companies, hitting them continuously until they are no longer easy targets.

Establish Security Compliance Standards. Clarify your expectations. You want to be sure that your carriers are doing enough proactively and, equally important, will do the right thing if a theft occurs.

• Do they have the latest GPS technology and IT systems for tracking shipments?
• Are their facilities safe? How safe?
• Do they have the right personnel and processes in place to address their supply chain security program?

Do not assume your shipments are safe in the hands of a third party. Make it your responsibility to ensure they are protecting your cargo the way you want it done.