Be Prepared: Container Theft


Frank Burgwin left the engine running on his locked Freightliner and rushed into a truck stop to grab a takeout hamburger in Arkansas.  When he returned to his Freightliner, his tractor and the flatbed with 48,000 pound of aluminum had vanished. An off-duty Consolidated Freight Driver gave Burgwin a ride and they found the tractor that day new West Memphis, Arkansas, close to a truck stop. A trailer stolen from Texas was hooked to the truck, but the cargo and trailer were never recovered. Cargo theft has worsened since this incident.  In 2013, there were 33 recorded driver theft incidents, 32% higher than the number of driver theft incidents from all of 2012.

Although the story of Frank Burgwin is a theft of aluminum, this is an ever increasing problem in the dried fruit and tree nut industry.  How ready is your company in the case of stolen product due to organized crime? Are you doing all you can to protect your company? As California commodities continue to increase in value, more companies are faced with dealing with stolen goods and falsified information, which in turn results in a financial loss.

What can you do to NOT be a victim of cargo theft?

  • Create a written procedure for vetting Motor Carriers you hire
  • Train your employees on your Carrier Qualification procedures
  • Adhere to your written process at all times
  • Document all of your Carrier vetting activities
  • Have proper insurance when/if claims are incurred

Preventative Employee Measures

  • Keep accurate up-to-date employee information
  • Do background checks on potential employees
  • Consider random drug tests of current employees
  • Have employees sign polygraph waivers
  • Educate employees on how and what to report if a theft occurs

Besides hurting the nation’s trucking industry – which moves more than 68 percent of all domestic shipments – the thefts have real-world consequences for consumers, including raising prices and potentially allowing unsafe food and drugs to reach store shelves. The thefts are unspecified and seldom discussed outside the world of commercial trucking. Companies that have been victimized are often reluctant to talk about their losses. But crime reports and Associated Press interviews with law enforcement and industry leaders reveal an alarming pattern that hurts commerce, pushes up consumer prices and potentially puts Americans’ heath and safety at risk.

According to the California Farm Bureau, “to make it more difficult for thieves to steal truckloads of nut crops, Tehama Count Detective Parker suggested that growers and processors take extra steps to record the identity of truck drivers by taking a driver’s photograph, recording his thumbprints, and recording or photographing his driver’s license number. Also, digitally photograph the truck, including the truck’s state and federal registration numbers and license plates, to make sure everything is well documented, he said. For other tips, contact local law enforcement or the county rural crime task force.”

Sherriff’s departments and California counties are doing everything possible to deter and prevent cargo theft, but it also takes the facilities cooperation and preparation before-hand to completely avoid theft and possible thousands and thousands of dollars.