Stop Thief!

| April 07, 2005

This is the thinking behind LoJack, a device so small, so inconspicuous, and so little recognized that the company refuses to give us a picture of it or reveal where on a vehicle it would be mounted.

“Its sole purpose is to make it easy to recover a stolen vehicle,” says LoJack’s Scott Nelson, senior manager of commercial business.

When installed on the vehicle, the LoJack works without any kind of aerial or other visible sign that it’s there. It doesn’t need line-of-sight to communicate, so signals get through right away. It tells law enforcement the location of your vehicle.

“LoJack’s immediate activation gives a better chance of finding what’s in the trailer,” Nelson says. “In most cases, the contents are still there.”

You can purchase a LoJack system directly from the company, or through many trailer or truck dealers. A LoJack technician comes to the dealer to install the device. The price is based on a sliding scale with volume discounts. For example, five units go for $495 apiece, the price includes installation, and it’s a one-time payment (there are no monthly fees later). Nelson says many cargo insurers offer reduced premiums for vehicles that have LoJack. You may also save money by recovering your deductible.

Get wary and save
Cargo theft, like a crash, always ends up costing you much more than your deductible. Anything that makes life tougher for thieves will save you dollars either by preventing theft or, immediately after a theft, by increasing the chances you’ll recover your lost possessions and by saving you downtime. Insurance companies base premiums on a trucker or trucking company’s ability to protect the goods being transported, and, over the long term, a client’s individual loss history. That means the effort you make to keep your cargo safe translates into lower premiums. And a trucking company known for keeping its cargo safe is also more likely to get and retain any shipper’s business. All that means dollars in your pocket.

Double-O Driving
New tractor security devices rival James Bond’s bag of tricks

Electronic wizardry is about to make your tractor safer – and harder to steal.

For example, take a look at what just one major company, Qualcomm, is doing. Although most one-truck owner operators and small fleets can’t afford a Qualcomm OmniTracs system for their vehicle, many lease onto fleets that use the system and can equip their tractors for a reasonable cost. Marc Sands, vice president and general counsel of Qualcomm Wireless Business Solutions, reports that the system already offers driver authentication for security purposes. If the vehicle has this capability, the driver must type in a password each time he returns to the truck and starts it. If the password is incorrect, the base station is alerted via a transmission from the truck’s OmniTracs unit. The password can even be reconfigured at each stop so thieves would have more difficulty finding and using it. This function will soon be expanded to read such biometric identifiers as fingerprints.

The Qualcomm OmniTracs system provides carriers with continuous load tracking and drivers with the ability to send an immediate emergency notification message simply by pressing a panic button. Data can also be shared with shippers.

The system is available for $100 with no hardware modifications on the more powerful OmniTracs units. Others can be readily modified.

One of Qualcomm’s niche markets for the OmniTracs system is the common carrier that hauls munitions for the military. This market fostered the development of the panic button already used by many carriers so a driver experiencing a heart attack, hijacking or other emergency can, with the press of a button, inform his dispatcher that he has a critical need for assistance. A wireless panic button a driver can use to activate the panic button in the tractor from up to 400 feet away via a key fob is now in beta testing.

In the future the system will likely include another exciting technology James Bond’s gadget man “Q” might envy. OmniTracs is marketed in Brazil, where hijacking is as common as it was here in the old West. Brazilian drivers can use a system that interfaces the on-board OmniTracs computer with the engine ECM so the computer can control the vehicle and its systems. The computer can shut down the vehicle if communication between it and the base station is disabled.

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