Cargo Theft is Up, Here’s What to Do About It

The COVID-19 pandemic amplified several issues already affecting the trucking industry, perhaps most noticeably recent supply chain strains and labor shortages on both the driver and technician sides. Another of these is cargo theft, which has surged since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

CargoNet’s national database reflects that 1,502 total theft events were reported in 2020, compared to 1,106 in 2019 and 1,181 in 2018. While these numbers have improved slightly in 2021, theft activity hasn’t yet found its way back to pre-pandemic levels.

Thieves in the past typically targeted high-dollar items like electronics, but during 2020, the mark became high-demand household goods like bleach and toilet paper.

No matter what’s taken, the cost of dealing with a theft for fleets is always more than the price of goods. Between the time lost for the driver to acquire a new load and the possible need to purchase new equipment, even the smallest loss can make a big difference to a fleet running freight with slim margins. To deter such an expense, some fleets are turning to technology to add invaluable oversight to their operations.

The Security Benefits of Smart Trailer Telematics

Already a powerful tool in the battle against unplanned downtime and maintenance, smart trailer telematics like Great Dane’s FleetPulse, which is now a standard feature on each of the company’s newest dry and refrigerated trailers, also offers fleets key security benefits. For example, every trailer equipped with FleetPulsePRO has a door sensor installed on every door, each of which can be monitored in real time.

“There are a couple of unique ways you can use the door sensor to enhance cargo security,” says Justin Garver, FleetPulse sales manager at Great Dane. “The solution features an auxiliary battery installed under the trailer, which supplies power to the door sensors 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Even if a loaded trailer is sitting untethered from a tractor, you can see if that trailer’s door has been opened.”

This auxiliary battery has a life up to 45 days even if it becomes untethered from a tractor, allowing a fleet to track that trailer even if it isn’t plugged into the connector.

“Alerts can be set up for individual VINs, so if you have a high-dollar cargo load, you can set up an alert for unauthorized access based on time of the day, or if that trailer’s doors have been opened outside of a geofenced area,” he continues. “If there would be no reason for a driver to open a door outside of a shipper location, simply set the alert to be immediately activated if the door is opened outside that customer’s location, and you will get real-time alerting on unauthorized access of that load.”

Garver adds that these events trigger alerts immediately. FleetPulsePRO can even detect a loaded or unloaded trailer by monitoring the airbags on the bogie.

For fleets with pre-owned trailers or trailers not manufactured by Great Dane looking for a security boost, the company offers FleetPulseGO, a GPS tracking solution that uses the FleetPulse trailer telematics platform.

“FleetPulseGO will provide a fleet the ability to monitor if an asset is where it’s supposed to be, on the right heading, operating outside of the intended route, is dwelling in an area that wasn’t expected, or simply tracking if the trailer has been stolen,” Garver says.

Their Powers Combined

Acting alone, trailer telematics solutions like FleetPulse offer fleets a host of security benefits, but fleets can utilize the ever-growing list of cargo theft prevention technologies in conjunction with trailer telematics to further enhance these abilities.

“Trailer telematics solutions such as FleetPulse are built on an open API platform and also have wired and wireless integration points which allow a fleet to be able to monitor loads, door activity, lock security, and utilize other theft prevention tools through their existing system,” Garver says.

For instance, a camera system could be integrated into the telematics system to transmit video or still images of the cargo load when triggered by an event. Another integration example would be equipping high-value goods with RFID tags that could communicate with trailer telematics when the goods are offloaded from a trailer, or tracking tags hidden inside the load to identify if a pallet has been removed from a trailer outside of a geofenced location.

“As you see more advancements in trailer-to-truck-connectivity technology, you will also start to be able to identify if an unknown or incorrect tractor has been coupled to one of your trailers, triggering an alert of potential unauthorized use or movement of that trailer,” Garver says. “The future has a lot of opportunities for cargo security technologies to be integrated into solutions such as FleetPulse.”

As a standard feature on Great Dane’s newest dry and refrigerated trailers, FleetPulse not only provides fleets with GPS tracking and other security enhancements but provides the foundation needed to add and integrate the latest cargo security technology down the road.