Thursday, October 24, 2013

Cargo Theft and CFATS

A couple of interesting recent articles (here and here) address the issue of truck cargo theft. While neither one directly deals with the theft of hazardous chemicals nor chemicals that may be used to make improvised weapons (either explosive or chemical), the chemical manufacturing and chemical transportation communities ought to take notice.

The first article is a general overview of the cargo theft problem here in the United States. It is lacking in specific information that would be useful in helping shippers and transport companies avoid the problem. It does, however, outline the scope of the problem.

The second article addresses an apparently increasing tactic for cargo thieves, impersonating legitimate trucking companies and scheduling legitimate pick-ups from shippers and then diverting the cargos. Chemical facilities that ship theft/diversion COI chemicals need to take special note of this article because this would be a very effective way of targeting such chemicals.

What Roxana Hegeman’s article describes is essentially commercial identity theft. She describes one of the ways that the identity theft works:

“Thieves assume the identity of a trucking company, often by reactivating a dormant Department of Transportation carrier number from a government website for as little as $300. That lets them pretend to be a long-established firm with a seemingly good safety record.”

This technique, along with the forging of appropriate commercial trucking company documentation allows the thieves to bid on loads with commercial freight brokers. When a bid is won a truck shows up at the loading dock with legitimate paperwork to pick-up a properly scheduled load. The only problem is that the truck and its cargo are never seen again once they pull away from the loading dock.

Unfortunately the article is short on effective methods for shippers to prevent this type of cargo diversion. It recommends:

• Checking for temporary name placards or identification numbers on the truck;
• Paying attention to abrupt changes in the time of the pickup;
• Being aware of the lack of a GPS tracking system on the truck; or
• Getting a thumb print of the driver.

For CFATS covered facilities it probably makes more sense to protect theft/diversion COI shipments from this type of diversion by only using known trucking companies that the facility has a well-established history of working with. This would be sort of a ‘know your transporter’ program that would parallel the ‘know your customer’ idea identified in RBPS #5 in the CFATS Risk Based Performance Standards guidance document.

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