Stop Thief!

| April 07, 2005

Kryptonite makes a wide variety of solid-body padlocks, including several designs with shrouded shackles to make it harder to use bolt cutters to break in.

Are you safe from thieves? Are you sure?

Many truckers might not usually think about securing a flatbed load except to keep it safely stowed and help them pass through roadside inspections. But any load can be subject to theft – especially if the product you’re hauling is valuable. Why not protect yourself, the shipper and your cargo insurance policy?

Even though any security device can be penetrated – eventually – let’s face facts. If a thief is confronted with a security device that creates a lot of noise and takes long enough to disable, he’s likely to get caught. And, because of those risks, he’s likely to be discouraged by the sight of heavy security.

One way to protect your cargo is with a security chain. When you shop for a chain, make sure to ask about its strength, thickness and shape to ensure you’re getting a quality chain. Also, ask what it would take for a thief to cut through it. For example, Kryptonite makes a security chain from triple heat-treated, boron manganese steel and available in thicknesses up to 3/8-inch. The chain’s links have a trapezoidal shape, which means the link material has a nearly square cross-section rather than a round one. This shape “makes it difficult for an anvil bolt cutter to get a bite because it pushes back,” says Roger Cross, director of sales for Kryptonite Corp. The shape and strong material make the chain a formidable obstacle for potential thieves. You’d need power tools or a big saw to cut it – resulting in lots of time and noise.

If you prefer cables to chains, look for something beyond the ordinary to ensure your greatest security. You could try something like Master Lock’s Python, an adjustable locking cable made of vinyl-coated, braided steel and a solid aluminum alloy, weather-resistant lock body. The device can be cinched and locked at any position along its length. You can use the standard cable length of six feet for jobs like securing your toolbox or order cables in lengths of up to 30 feet to theft-proof cars, generators, air compressors or other freight you might be transporting. A cable like that can help you sleep at night.

Good locks are another important element in securing your load. Look for a lock made of stainless steel so it won’t ever corrode in the locked position – an annoying situation if there ever was one. You might also try locks that offer a second line of defense against bolt cutters, such as locks with bodies fashioned from a continuous piece of stainless steel instead of the commonly used laminated body.

Master Lock’s Python adjustable locking cable comes in lengths up to 30 feet, so you could use it to theft-proof many types of cargo carried on a flatbed.

Many fleets still just apply tamper tags to trailer van doors without even locking them, assuming a trailer won’t be out of sight and control long enough to offer opportunity for theft. Since trailer doors normally have hasps, if you’re concerned you could invest in a padlock to slow down would-be thieves.

To chain down loads on flatbeds, again, don’t settle for cheap equipment. Look for something along the lines of Kryptonite’s Stronghold Anchor, a mounted, 5/8-inch hardened shackle. Cross says you could buy your own fasteners, drill through the bed, and then mount one on either side of a flatbed. You’d then have a way to anchor either end of a chain or cable with padlocks. For a chassis-mounted toolbox with doors split in the middle, you could try a shackleless padlock. The hasp consists of two metal plates that come together and form a circle around the lock, which is then inserted inside and locked in position.

Worried about losing keys or reluctant to carry more around? Get a combination type padlock instead. And if your operation needs to offer access to every load to several people, but wants keyed locks, you can order multiple locks keyed to the same key code, or have a master key or two made. Codes can be embossed on any of their locks so keys can be replaced if lost.
Unfortunately, these products are not yet marked and rated the way cargo fastening materials are, so you’d have to add them to whatever you’re already using. But the benefits of discouraging thieves may make using such products worthwhile.

Food protection
Food cargo protection has become a hot topic since Sept. 11 because of the great potential for inflicting harm to large numbers with invisible biological or chemical agents that could be used to contaminate food. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s website has some worthwhile suggestions relating to physical security for food. Visit, and then click on “Food Safety and Terrorism.” When that page opens, click on “Guidance for industry food producers, processors, transporters and retailers; Food Security preventive measures guidance.” Or, you can just type in: ~dms/secguid.html.
The site’s recommendations particularly relevant to truckers include:

  • securing doors (including freight loading doors), windows, roof openings/hatches, vent openings, trailer bodies, tanker trucks and bulk storage tanks for liquids, solids and compressed gases, to the extent possible (e.g., using locks, “jimmy plates,” seals and alarms)
  • using metal doors
  • accounting for all keys

    Stealth pays
    But what if you’re a victim of theft? Recovery could be put in motion almost immediately via a security device on your truck that is almost impossible to discover.

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