March 2002 | How-To | Ten Tips

Ensuring Cargo Security

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Special containers, locks and alarms are well utilized by shippers to protect goods in transit. But in many cases the best insurance against cargo theft starts with the documentation process, says Lou Tyska, security consultant to Pinkerton Logistics Services, and chairman of the Transportation Security Council of the American Society for Industrial Security. Here are 10 tips from Tyska to help you guard against cargo theft.

1. Deal in absolutes. Make absolutely sure that the contents, condition, and count of a shipment is consistent with and stated in the documentation. Catching errors before release cuts costs and reduces losses.

2. Don't accept nicknames for the consignee. Accept only full and complete signatures of the person to whom the goods pass. No nicknames or shorthand versions. And nothing should be written in pencil.

3. Examine the driver's license of those delivering the goods. Compare the face and signature on the license. If concerned, take a copy of the license or call the employer.

4. Treat documentation as you would currency or negotiable bonds. You wouldn't leave money on the table unattended so never leave blank documentation without supervision. This invites theft.

5. Emboss multiple copies. If you use multiple copies of documentation, make sure that each copy is embossed with its specific use.

6. Use EDI. Electronic data interchange reduces costs and enhances accurate descriptions and specifics such as serial numbers.

7. Ask for the container or trailer interchange forms. Equipment is at risk for unauthorized use. Even if you recognize the driver, ask to see the proper documentation. This is particularly true for shipment pickups.

8. Put a process in place to deal with shipment discrepancies. If you are truly committed to maintaining control of goods in transit, you must have a process for dealing with discrepancies. Periodically reviewing this data can help identify trends, locations, and carriers most vulnerable to sustaining loss.

9. Examine all documents carefully. Through document fraud, thieves can successfully obtain goods staged for shipment. Examine documentation carefully and ask questions. Make phone calls if you suspect fraud.

10. Consider pickups and deliveries by appointment only. Thieves select busy locations operating at peak, then show up with fake documentation, thereby reducing the level of risk. Confusion at your loading/receiving dock can contribute to your company becoming a victim of cargo theft.

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