Article | February 18, 2014

Cargo Security: Are You Prepared?

Jeff Clark

By Jeff Clark, 7P Solutions™, LLC

Today’s global transportation industry must confront daily challenges associated with managing regulatory changes and requirements around the world. In addition to the ever changing country regulations, companies providing services to the pharmaceutical industry also face Good Distribution Practices (GMP-GDP) regulations. As if this weren’t enough to keep them busy during their daily routines, cargo theft must also be top of mind. Cargo thieves today use many tactics when looking for shipments to steal, and despite the current laws in place, the reward far exceeds the risk involved.

To put cargo theft into perspective, it is reported by various industry organizations that a cargo theft takes place about every 9 hours and product loss cost upwards of $40 billion dollars per annum. It is important to keep in mind that these numbers can also be deceiving as many companies do not report cargo theft in order to protect their brand and keep their insurance premiums manageable. This also does not take into consideration how it also affects a trucking company, their reputation, and cost of stolen equipment.

Share Supply Chain Security Responsibilities

Trucking companies and service providers should not be expected to develop security protocols on their own. Pharmaceutical supply chains should also be involved in the process of establishing security and training protocols to protect their brand.  As with all processes related to pharmaceutical products, these protocols should follow cGMP principles and guidelines, even more so today with GDP regulations.

During the vetting process of service providers, it is important to understand their strengths and weaknesses as this will assist in the development of security protocols and training programs.  When establishing the detail of a security protocol. it is important that the number of people involved is limited and confidentiality be first and foremost. 

Fight Cargo Theft through Awareness

How can trucking companies and service providers help fight cargo theft? First and foremost – awareness! This awareness must be driven throughout the organization from the top down and from the bottom up through required and encouraged communications.

Through “awareness training,” logistics providers should understand how cargo thieves are operating today. Certainly, the most obvious and preferred method is stealing unaccompanied vehicles and trailers, whether they are staged for loading/unloading, in a truck stop, rest area, or trucking terminal.

Thieves will watch facilities for months and follow drivers learning their habits; they are patient and will wait for the right opportunity. Cargo thieves today are also using other techniques that involve fictitious pick-ups, company identity theft, and misdirected loads.

Other Steps to Help Protect the Supply Chain

With a comprehensive awareness training program in place, what other steps should carriers take to ensure that their client’s products and brand are secure?

  • Establish a clear and communicable security protocoal internally and externally with clients. As with any process the foundation of the security protocol should be based on a quality management system which provides checks and balances to ensure the organizations are actually doing what they claim they do. This will also establish the process for training, corrective and preventive action (CAPA) and accountability.  
  • Understand industry-specific standards such as Rx360 and Transported Asset Protection Association (TAPA) and be involved with organizations, such as the National Cargo Theft Task Force or similar organizations that are established as regional organizations. This includes the National Insurance Crime Bureau and the Pharmaceutical Cargo Security Coalition (PCSC).
  • Implementation of the company’s security protocols must detail the responsibilities within the organization from the bottom up. Operations, dispatch and drivers are important pieces of the supply chain; they must be properly trained as to their responsibilities within the security protocols. However, they certainly should not be aware of the detailed aspects of the company’s security protocols or individual client requirements. These should be confidential between the service provider’s security team, their security provider and that of the client.
  • Standardization of equipment which conforms to the requirements of the security protocols for the companies, clients or industries served. There are several items which should become standard on any equipment transporting high-value and high-theft risk cargo.

Understanding Available Technologies

When developing a robust security policy and standardizing equipment, trucking companies and service providers should also understand the technologies offered today and combine these technologies, offering multi-layered security options for their clients.

Today’s technologies should not only provide the normal fleet management services for trucking companies, but should also provide compliant security features and monitoring systems. These technologies can tie the tractor, trailer, and cargo together and maintain everything within a predetermined route among other things.

Because GPS-GSM/GPRS technologies are playing such an important role in today’s supply chain, including that of cargo embedment, carriers today should consider utilizing trailers with translucent roofs as this greatly enhances tracking for embedded cargo. Other methods can be applied for climate control trailers.

Trailer and vehicle locking systems are important as well, but having a solid security protocol with multiple layers of security offerings will prevent cargo theft from taking place. Part of that robustness is using different security methods and not always following the same routines. Mix it up by using cargo embedment, covert GPS on the vehicle/trailer, armed escorts, or covert armed escorts where the driver(s) are unaware they are being escorted.

Protecting the products and brand are important to the overall success of everyone involved in the supply chain and should have input from the highest levels of management.  With the ever changing technologies available it is important that companies are using technologies that will accomplish their goals. Just as important  is understanding the limitations of these technologies.

Outside services can be a very good resource when reviewing your overall supply chain; however, they should be audited in the same manner that a pharmaceutical company would audit a contract manufacturer, third party storage facility, and any other third party partner/vendor.  Decisions are made jointly by C-level management: security; quality assurance, and supply Chain/Logistics.

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