Many fleets are involved in delivering a product or utilize expensive equipment kept on the fleet vehicles to accomplish their jobs. This means storing cargo or tools. With the high visibility of these fleet vehicles and the shared knowledge regarding what could be inside, these vehicles are prime targets for theft.
“Cargo theft has dramatically spiked since the beginning of COVID-19, resulting in billions of dollars in theft said Jessica Smith, VP of Customer and Data Insight for Phillips Connect.
Brent MacLean, vice president, sales, manufacturing & distribution for Holman agreed, adding that “Cargo and component theft has been on the rise for several years now, especially catalytic converter theft with the number of incidents nearly doubling over the last two years.”
When you look at the recent surge, it has really been the perfect storm of several factors, MacLean explained. “Since the onset of the pandemic in 2020, an increased number of fleet vehicles sat idle or were left unattended for extended periods as business volume waned for several organizations. These idle, unattended units often feature expensive equipment and components, offering an easy target for thieves.”
According to Smith, different types of theft result in a loss for fleets.
“The first type of theft is breaking the seal of the trailer. Another form of theft is the palette or case is physically removed from the trailer. Even if the thief didn’t take anything, it shows that the load wasn’t secured from Point A to Point B, and the customer may not accept the palette. Finally, a full truck steal is a bit less common,” Smith explained.
When it comes to effective and efficient cargo management, it is beneficial to understand precisely how your vehicles are being used in the field daily.
“Pilot studies or a ride-along deliver tremendous insight and provide an opportunity for your frontline employees to provide real-world feedback. This process helps to ensure there isn’t a disconnect between what looks good on paper and how those specs translate to real-world use in the field,” said Blake Heiser, fleet & strategic sales manager, manufacturing & distribution for Holman.
By performing this research, depending on the driver, the vehicle, and their daily tasks, you’ll be able to customize the cargo solution to best meet those needs.
“Your storage solutions should complement your driver and vehicle, not hinder their productivity. Engaging your frontline employees and allowing them to have a voice in the process is important. Still, ultimately as the fleet manager, you’ll need to decide what’s necessary/optimal,” Heiser added. “Also, keep in mind, there’s an overwhelming amount of cargo and storage solutions on the market with new options being introduced almost daily. Engage your upfit and supply chain partners to understand the wide range of options available better and determine the best solutions for your application.”
Top Work Truck Fleet Cargo Management Mistakes
No one likes to make a mistake, especially one that can cost your company thousands of dollars in loss and cause vehicle downtime.
“One of the biggest mistakes that fleets make in cargo management is twofold — trying to put as much stuff into a vehicle for as little money as possible,” said Chris Rolsen, director of fleet and sector sales for Knapheide. “Good cargo management systems cost money and working with people who are good industry experts in upfitting and helping fleets maximize their equipment need and space sometimes comes at a cost. A quality cargo management system doesn’t need to break the bank for a customer. Where the real value comes into play is working with upfitters who have ‘seen it all’ and can help guide you to the best system for you and your operation.”
There is a lot to choose from when looking at cargo management solutions.
“With the vast array of cargo management options on the market, understanding load limits can be challenging. Making the wrong choice when selecting a device can result in cargo securement failure and damage. Securement point placement is a consideration in any vehicle. Knowing what to place, where to place, and how best to secure it can be a perplexing task,” said Bob Dissinger, director of sales – U.S., for Kinedyne.
Smith of Phillips Connect noted two major mistakes that fleets make in cargo management.
“The first mistake is customers not securing freight properly. It could fall over, shift, get damaged, or lean against the door in transit. This would cause the freight to be damaged inside the trailer. When the freight arrives at Point B, customers might look at it and say they don’t want to accept it. This isn’t just the case for electronics. It could happen for food or even a case of toilet paper,” she explained. “The second mistake is trailers not being fully utilized. For example, many companies have a policy where if one customer fills 50% of the trailer, they legally cannot sell the other half to another customer.”
Ensuring that the products you select work well together is also important.
“One mistake is using mismatched products. If you buy an off-the-shelf securement product, but your attachment points are not the proper match, you’ve got problems. You’ll see five hooks trying to hook up to a D ring. For cargo securement ‘components’ to become a tie-down ‘system,’ everything must work together, including attachment points. That’s where, often, someone will try to put a round peg in a square hole,” said Ralph Abato, president/managing director at Doleco USA.
Tips for Reducing Fleet Cargo Theft
At the end of the workday, you want to ensure all the equipment that left on your trucks makes it back to the facility and that any items that needed to be delivered made it safely to their final destination.
Efforts to reduce fleet and work truck cargo theft must be made. There are some basics – like if you’re driving a delivery vehicle or van, you lock it. But secure more than just the door.
“It is common for thieves to simply hook to a trailer, steal the entire load, strip it of cargo, and abandon the trailer. King pin locks and trailer tracking technologies are valuable investments, especially in operations that drop trailers for any period,” said Dissinger, of Kinedyne.
But there are more efforts drivers can make.
“If you’re operating an open-deck trailer, you should be taking your load securement straps off your winches and locking them up in your toolbox. Sliding winches on a flatbed trailer typically have a bolt or some mechanism at the end of the rail to prevent the winches from being slid off by anybody other than the owner,” noted Abato of Doleco USA.
Mike Bykowski, director of product management at Weather Guard recommended buying a strong and protective product that can provide peace of mind that your tools will be protected.
“Remember to keep things out of site and change your schedules,” Bykowski added.