How to steer clear of would-be produce thieves

There’s no doubt that fresh produce theft is a growing issue as Produce Ops Editor Fred Wilkinson outlined in last issue’s story, “Loads of Trouble.” But there are some steps produce shippers and receivers can take to keep trouble from finding you.

Shun trouble from the get-go with a defined setup process for new carriers or 3PLs.

  • Verify how long the carrier or 3PL has had their authority through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
  • Make sure you understand and approve of all policies regarding carrier setup and maintenance.
  1. What is the amount of the carrier’s cargo and liability insurance and/or what is the 3PLs insurance requirements of their carrier? Is that enough to cover the value of the load you are putting on the truck?
  2. If you are doing business with a 3PL, do they have the newly required $75,000 surety bond?
  3. Does the carrier have Reefer Breakdown Insurance?
  • Find out if the carrier or 3PL is affiliated with CargoNET. CargoNET was set up to prevent cargo theft and increase recovery rates. They have a network of tens of thousands of police officers members can call upon if a load goes missing, allowing Be On the Lookout (BOLO) notices to be issued across the country, definitely giving shippers and carriers a leg-up on would-be thieves.
  • Check references carefully on any new provider you are considering doing business with.
  • Double-check your driver before he hits the open road.
  • Make sure you have a defined check-in process that will be carried out by a member of your staff when a new carrier arrives to pick up their first load. This check-in process can include things like:
  1. Taking a picture of the truck’s license plate.
  2. Taking a picture of all markings and identification numbers on the side of the tractor and the trailer.
  3. Writing down the VIN number of the tractor and trailer.
  4. Requesting a copy of the driver’s license.
  5. Taking a picture of the driver or installing video cameras to record accurate images of the driver picking up your load.
  • Consider investing in GPS tracking systems. Today’s location tracking and sensor monitoring devices can help you keep tabs on valuable cargo as well as monitor the environment inside the trailer.
  • Consider investing in an ID verification system. Today’s sophisticated digital tools communicate directly with the FMCSA and can even include biometric information.

How to steer clear of would-be produce thieves

While produce theft is a frightening and costly issue, when it comes to stealing your hard-earned profits, proving and preventing claims should still be priority number one for every produce shipper. And again, there are some basic steps you can take to keep these bandits at bay.

  • Protect yourself from the more common perp: a claim;
  • Use a temperature recorder to verify the readings;
  • Make sure the Bills of Lading are filled out correctly; and
  • Make sure you, the shipper, seals the load and records the seal number on the Bill of Lading.

We all have a lot on the line every time a truck pulls away with a load. Sticking to a defined checklist of procedures can be your most powerful defense against loss of property and profits.