RSA Insight: How crime groups operate throughout the supply chain
Off the back of a lorry: £95m of goods stolen on the UK’s roads
Freight crime is rife in the UK. It varies in sophistication from the opportunistic slashing of a curtain-sided lorry to the highly efficient, stolen-to-order operations run by organised crime groups. And although criminals target favourites like tobacco, alcohol and high-value electronics, a significant number of stolen goods in the UK are foodstuffs.
In the UK in 2020, the cost of freight crime is estimated to be nearly £95 million in stolen goods, from 4,481 incidents, according to figures from the National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service. Criminal activity doesn’t only affect the UK – supply chains around the world suffer, with the cost of lost goods running into the billions.
Paule Mayoh is a Consultant Risk Surveyor at RSA, specialising in helping companies throughout the supply chain improve their security and reduce their risks. “Cargo is an easy target,” he says, “it’s a quick way to make money, and it’s seen as a victimless crime.” Mayoh has spent his entire career in logistics and supply chain operations – he started out in a wine warehouse then worked his way up through a large transport operator before joining RSA. He’s got the experience and knowledge that comes from seeing an industry from all sides: “I’ve been on the receiving end of losses, I’ve helped companies deal with losses and now I try and prevent them altogether.”
Parking the problem
The majority of cargo losses happen on the road – or at least, just next to it. The vast majority of goods in the UK are moved around by lorry. And most of the time, they have to stop overnight somewhere – which is the main weak point in the country’s infrastructure. “There’s a complete lack of safe and secure parking in the UK,” says Mayoh. “Trucks will mainly park in a motorway service area overnight, a truck stop or worse – a layby. And while these won’t always result in losses, none of these options can be described as absolutely secure.” Security, if there is any, will often only stretch to good lighting and CCTV.
Change how you think: the risk mindset
So what can businesses do to protect themselves? There are all sorts of security gadgets to invest in, but the most important thing is to change how your people think about risk. “The starting point for any business needs to be a risk management mindset,” says Mayoh. Criminal operations often rely on human error to succeed, so your team’s attitude and approach can make all the difference. It’s not just about following the security measures you have in place – but understanding why the measures are important, and how everyone plays a role in making the company and its people safer.
Change what you do: depot routes, tracking, CCTV
There are practical tactics that companies can use to reduce losses in transit and storage. Mayoh has helped businesses change the way they plan routes, moving goods from depot to depot to avoid an overnight stop in an unsecure location. Where an overnight stop is unavoidable, companies can plan routes that use certified sites (as well as facilities and logistics providers) such as those approved by TAPA, an industry body. Or they can use online parking portals or apps that specify details of the security measures in place at designated parking locations.
It’s not all focused on goods in transit. Mayoh also works with clients who’ve recently had thefts from warehouses and yards. He’s worked with them to improve site security – installing intruder detection systems, CCTV, more robust fencing and gates, even anti-ram barriers. For many of these clients, the risk improvements have resulted in no similar losses to date.
“We agreed on the introduction of ‘cash in transit’ vehicles with a guard inside, security escorts, and remote locking mechanisms that mean not even the driver can open the door"
Give it the Fort Knox treatment
If the value of goods is particularly high, it can make sense to invest in all sorts of high-security measures. For one client who was suffering frequent hijackings, RSA risk engineers worked with them to transform how they moved goods around. “We agreed on the introduction of ‘cash in transit’ vehicles with a guard inside, security escorts, and remote locking mechanisms that mean not even the driver can open the door,” says Mayoh. Since implementing these changes, the client has had no further losses.
More tech won’t necessarily help
It might be tempting to imagine that technological advances will eliminate many of the risks in the supply chain. Electronic paperwork has already made it harder to fake documents, and other developments may well strengthen lots of the weakest points. But, says Mayoh, “none of these addresses the fact you still have to move goods from A to B, often with an overnight stop. It’s a very tough nut to crack.”
As with all security measures, you can never be completely free of risk. It’s about making it harder for criminals to operate. Of course, businesses should have all the appropriate security systems in place, but it should always start with your people. Adopt a risk management mindset, follow the processes, double-check the documents. And don’t park your lorry in a layby.
Authored by RSA
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