Fighting transport crime

In an effort to reduce transport crime, Fesarta has partnered with a forensic investigator who specialises in truck hijacking, cargo theft and diesel scams

Over the past 12 months the transport industry – particularly in KwaZulu-Natal – has been plagued by problems. From trucks that were being attacked on main trade routes, to congestion at terminals such as Maydon Wharf and Bayhead in Durban, the issues have been varied, intense and significant.

Theft, too, has been on the increase, with a rising number of cases being reported of bogus trucks being used to collect cargo or containers in and around Durban. In this respect, Fesarta has partnered with ex-South African police captain, Wimpie Nel, who has uncovered the following: 

• In order to maximise productivity, transport operators want to carry return loads from Durban to their home destinations. They therefore need to know what loads are available – and this is where a broker system comes into operation;

• Brokers usually communicate via e-mail and WhatsApp groups, inviting transporters to apply to carry particular loads;

• To comply, transporters are usually required to supply company documentation, identification, goods in transit records and logbooks.

“In a perfect world the system is very effective,” says Nel. “However, there are some unscrupulous people who steal the transport company’s details and sell them on to crime syndicates. The syndicates then clone a legitimate operator’s truck, using a vehicle that looks similar and which bears an identical registration number. Company documentation is also duplicated, with only contact details being changed.

“When notification of a load is posted, the owner of the fake truck will submit an application to transport it using the false documentation. If the offer is accepted, the bogus truck arrives to collect the load – and then disappears with the cargo.”

Nel says the scenario can be mitigated if cargo owners carry out a proper risk analysis of the contracted transport company’s credentials, as well as those of the truck and driver. “In most cases the real transporter will not be aware that his truck has been cloned,” says Nel. “These discrepancies may become apparent only when an in-depth risk analysis is undertaken.”   

Other risks faced by the road transport industry include a rising incidence of truck hijackings and ongoing protest action. Being exposed to so much peril makes it imperative for fleet owners to ensure that they are comprehensively insured against all risks.

In Fesarta’s view, one of the keys to the successful settlement of insurance claims is to ensure that an insurer has not been placed at risk intentionally. That means the transporter has a duty to take all the necessary steps to honour the conditions of an insurance policy.

From an anti-hijacking perspective, vehicle tracking companies need to know early on that something is amiss, either through the activation of a panic signal inside the vehicle’s cabin, or via real-time CCTV footage from in-cab and dashboard-mounted cameras. While this may not prevent a truck from being hijacked, it could help to recover the vehicle and its cargo.

Fesarta recommends that vehicles are monitored from point of collection to point of delivery, and that they travel with escort vehicles if high-value cargo is in transit. Other steps include the installation of: a notification device if the trailer is unhitched from the truck; tracking units on the trailer and in items of cargo; and recording devices inside the vehicle’s cab.

Published by

Mike Fitzmaurice

Mike Fitzmaurice is the CEO of the Federation of East and Southern Africa Road Transport Associations (Fesarta). He has 42 years of experience in the transport and logistics industry with several major companies in South Africa, as well as overseas exposure with some of the leading transport companies in six European countries. Since 2004 he has established and run Transport Logistics Consultants. In May 2015 he became CEO of Fesarta.
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