Dwindling Resources

| April 07, 2005

Billions of dollars are lost and many lives risked every year as ever-bolder thieves loot the trucking industry.

Thick with Thieves
The roots of cargo theft reach inside and outside the industry.

Miami Heat
Thieves learn the hard way that an idling Pete isn’t as innocent as it looks.

Some thieves turn to desperate measures to take cargo.

Protecting the Goods
Fleets, retailers and trucking organizations all have a vested interest in security.

Big Gain, Little Pain
Weak penalties, high profits make cargo theft more attractive than dealing in narcotics.

When Congress and the Bush administration began analyzing potential threats after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, 18-wheelers got a lot of scrutiny, especially after a CDL scandal erupted in Pennsylvania and a truckload of cyanide disappeared in Mexico.

Federal officials, who fear that terrorists will steal a truck loaded with hazardous material and use it as a bomb, even hired a seasoned trucking security expert, Yellow Freight’s George Rodriguez, to head up its new Transportation Security Administration’s cargo security department.

But a year and a half after the attacks, fleet personnel and security experts say the extra scrutiny hasn’t helped in the fight against cargo theft. In fact, they say some resources have been pulled from fighting cargo theft to fight the war on terror.

“We do not have enough law enforcement resources to deal with this wave of crime,” says Barry Brandman, president of Danbee Investigations. “The FBI has a finite number of agents out in the field. A number of agents have been reassigned to anti-terrorist activity.”

A 2001 report from an insurance industry group, the American Association of Insurance Services, worried about the post-9/11 approach to cargo theft. In it, the group asked, “Will law enforcement step up its pursuit of lost trucks and trailers, for fear they may be used as truck bombs? Or will cargo theft become an even lower priority crime?”

Apparently, the war on terror has shifted the focus away from cargo theft, experts say. “A lot of the contacts we’ve had over the years have been reassigned to the war on terrorism,” says Randy Price, director of corporate security for Prime Inc. “They’re not focused on theft anymore. The FBI does a good job, but a cargo theft has got to meet certain criteria before they’ll become involved. There’re only so many cases they can process.”

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