The U.S. winter holiday season – which encompasses both Christmas and New Year’s celebrations – is historically been one of the most dangerous times for cargo theft, according to consulting firm FreightWatch International (FWI) in a recent report.

Indeed, they represent the “tail end” of the proverbial September through December “peak season” for cargo theft activity, the firm noted.

For 2015, both Christmas Day and New Year’s Day occurred on a Friday, creating two separate three-day weekends and thus leaving more opportunity for shipments to be left unattended or parked in unsecured locations for extended periods of time, FWI explained. 

And not only loaded trailers are the target, as the group said it is not uncommon to see spikes in facility theft, too, as warehouses and freight terminals tend to have fewer personnel over the extended holiday period.

“Statistics show that cargo at rest is at an increased risk for pilferage and full container theft,” noted Tom Mann, president of cargo security system company TrakLok International. “This is especially true over holiday or extended weekends. This time of year is marked by increased traffic congestion, crowded truck stops, and a dramatic increase in cargo thefts.”

Large and small trucking firms alike are equally exposed to this heightened risk of cargo theft, so Mann offers a few tips to help both improve the security of the freight they are hauling.

  • Utilize secure lots that provide sufficient barriers to prevent theft or unauthorized access. For example, such compounds should have a chain link fence of 9-gauge material at least 8 feet high and topped with barbed wire and it should be properly anchored.
  • Close truck doors before pulling into the lot so that surveillance efforts cannot see what has been loaded on to trailers.
  • Use security equipment to secure trailers while they are being staged. King pin locks, landing gear locks, and most important are electronic security locks with active alarm systems installed on cargo doors.
  • Ensure that a "Red Zone" of at least 250 miles is implemented. The Red Zone is the distance wherein the driver does not stop after a pick-up. Drivers should be rested, trucks fueled and all personal needs taken care prior to a pick-up so the red zone can be effectively implemented.
  • Report of any "out of norm" occurrences while loading the trailer or while a shipment is in transit. Drivers should notify dispatch during extended stops at areas such as truck stops and rest areas.
  • Drivers and warehouse workers should not discuss any details regarding loads with anyone; specifically drop locations, routes and contents.
  • Consider a “no-drop policy” keeping the trailer married to the tractor so that entire vehicle can be secured as a whole.
  • Use effective access control equipment to maintain integrity while the shipment is in transit. This includes electronically monitored locks that include a tamper detection alarm system and GPS tracking affixed to the trailer doors.
  • Implement regular security briefings to train drivers on surveillance techniques and protocols to follow if drivers detect suspicious activities.
  • Employ a tracking system that includes active and passive alarm systems.
  • Use a rugged locking system that will notify the driver and security personnel if there are any attempts to breach the trailer door.