Smart decisions on where you park, what you say and how you operate will help prevent theft.
David P. Gaibis Sr. thought he had done the right things to protect his load. The owner-operator parked under a flood light at the truck stop in Weatherford, Texas, and locked his truck before heading into the restaurant. When he returned, his tractor and flatbed with 44,000 pounds of copper blocks were gone. The truck stop’s security guard called local police.
Gaibis lost not only his 2000 Western Star and 2006 48-foot flatbed, but his tarps, straps, chains, wallet with $200, CB radio, GPS unit and cell phone. Without his ID, his wife had to wire him money to ride the bus home to New Castle, Pa.
“I feel violated,” says Gaibis, 72, who’s leased to Packer Transport. “I’m bitter and upset. I’m always looking around now.”
The Oct. 24, 2009, theft was the first in Gaibis’ 51 years as a trucker. On Nov. 30, his tractor was recovered in Louisiana. The trailer and copper haven’t been recovered.
As Gaibis learned, owner-operators need to stay alert, be aware of their surroundings and practice a few tricks of the trade to keep thieves at bay. Here are a few pointers to reduce the odds of becoming a cargo theft victim.
Be careful where you park
At a truck stop, seek out spaces in front rows, close to fuel islands and the restaurant, and directly under lights. “If you’re in the back row, no one is watching the back of your trailer,” says Dale French, a driver instructor at Schneider National.
Avoid truck stops that are in remote areas or don’t appear to be busy – you want many sets of eyes watching out for you and your cargo. Frequent truck stops where you can back up your trailer against another trailer, says Rusty Wade, an owner-operator leased to M&M American. “Maybe you can back up against the back door of a moving van and tell the driver to wake you up when they’re leaving,” he says.
Use of a security patrol at a truck stop is by no means a guarantee of safety. “To me it’s a red flag,” says Bob Caffee, who with his wife Linda is leased to FedEx Custom Critical.
Wade says parking at casinos, whose security departments often will train a camera at the back of your trailer while you rest, can be a smart move. Other potential parking places are against buildings where you can back up your trailer for protection. “It might be an industrial park where you’ve been before,” he says. “When the workers come to work in the morning, the most that will happen is they’ll tell you to move.”
Dick McCorkle, who’s leased to Perkins Specialized Transportation, often hauls trade show equipment to convention centers and store fixtures to retail malls. He suggests calling the receiver where you’re delivering to see if parking is permitted. “They’ll usually say if they advise against it, or if they have security,” he says.
Avoid long-term parking at rest areas and highway shoulders and ramps. Also, taking your load home is a no-no because of the lack of security, says Walt Fountain, Schneider’s director of enterprise security.