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Cargo theft: deterring thieves with sensors and apps

How trucks and loads are safer on the road with electronic protection

The risks in the transport business are considerable: According to the German Working Group for the Prevention of Theft in Freight Transport and Logistics, loads are stolen every 20 minutes. In total, goods worth around 1.3 billion euros disappear from trucks in Germany every year. Losses that result in consequential costs of around 900 million euros due to production downtimes, repair costs, loss of sales and contractual penalties. Reason enough for logistics companies to implement effective measures against cargo theft. Digital technologies with sensors and apps help them to do this.

Those who want to prevent damage caused by the loss of loads can address three levels: the awareness of all those involved, the security of the vehicles and the monitoring and tracking options. Three areas where the risks of theft and consequential damage can be effectively reduced.
The most important starting point is truck drivers. Their behaviour can significantly protect them and their cargo from crime. If they are well aware of the tricks of criminal gangs, they can avoid dangerous situations: As a matter of principle, drivers should never pick up hitchhikers or allow to be stopped by other vehicles while driving. On the way to the loading point, it is also important never to let strangers divert them or persuade them to transfer their goods to another truck. During breaks, the truck must not be left unattended, and the trucker should also not talk about his load or the destination of the transport. At night, it is advisable to go to illuminated and supervised parking areas, and to always have the emergency numbers at hand.

Hazard prevention

Technical protective measures against cargo theft

If haulage companies have trained their drivers well, they can also take special measures to secure their vehicles technically. This includes, among other things, the use of a kingpin lock, which prevents a quick theft of the complete trailer. In addition, particularly robust tarpaulins or even tarpaulins equipped with sensors make it more difficult to steal cargo through tarpaulin slits. These cannot simply be cut open with a carpet knife. The electronically secured version additionally draws attention to the attempted theft with either a silent or loud alarm. This way, it can either deter the burglars or alert the police directly. In addition, the vehicles can be equipped with fuel tank (cap) protection and a gas detector to prevent diesel theft or the driver being knocked unconscious. Vehicles with box bodies and swap bodies can also be monitored via sensors on the doors or in digital seals for the load compartment, which, after arming the alarm function, trigger an acoustic signal or a silent alarm in the event of any unauthorised opening. The certifiable protection standards of the Transported Asset Protection Association (TAPA) define which vehicle equipment is considered sufficiently secure in the transport industry. Equipment with tracking technology further increases the protection of trucks and trailers.


Tracking down criminals and solving cargo theft

Even after a theft, GPS and tracking technologies offer victims the chance to minimise the damage. In the combination between sensors, mobile apps and end devices as well as online portals, the technology offers possibilities for:

  • Site localisation
  • Tour tracking
  • Route history
  • Standby time recording
  • Alarm display
  • Ignition interruption
  • Emergency release to the police

With this equipment, haulage companies improve their possibilities to stop or solve a cargo theft and to find the thieves. A position release for the police also creates the option for direct recovery of the cargo. Position and status sensors can not only send data via the vehicle electronics. They can also transmit all important information autonomously via mobile apps or even automatically and notify a selected group of recipients. In this way, not only vehicles but also load carriers or even particularly valuable cargo can be equipped with the technology for active tracking. This improves the detection rate of cargo theft enormously.


Mobile apps facilitate documentation

In addition to the active control of tours, the strengths of mobile applications for the logistics industry include in particular the documentation of the individual work steps. During the processing of tasks, they not only transmit each new status in real time to all authorised participants. They also document it in connection with the respective tour and the associated transport order. In addition, the apps also register the departure checks at the start of duty or with the start of a dangerous goods tour as well as the proper securing of the load using predefined workflows without additional administrative effort or media disruptions. In the event of truck accidents or damage to individual packages, the software solutions also allow the damage to be recorded, photographed and the accident report to be transferred to the scheduling department or directly to the insuring company.


Digitalisation and mobile apps reduce damage from cargo theft

Cargo theft is not worth it. This is the conclusion when trucks, trailers, load carriers and drivers are equipped with digital mobile technologies and take TAPA's recommendations into account. Then hauliers and freight forwarders make life so difficult for thieves that they can hardly succeed. Those who also want to prevent organised crime must exhaust all technical possibilities to achieve the greatest possible security. Then camera surveillance of trucks and trailers as well as vehicles should complement the technical equipment consisting of sensors and tracking technologies. In any case, the deterrent effect significantly reduces the potential danger.

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