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Overlooked Security Threats at the Loading Dock

Cargo theft isn’t anything new. Even with industry-wide under reporting of incidents, it’s estimated that cargo theft is responsible for $15 to $30 billion a year. And that staggering figure only accounts for the United States.

With the FBI reporting that less than 20% of stolen cargo is ever recovered, security measures at the loading dock or material transfer zone (MTZ) needs to be prioritized. From financial losses of missing products to broken trust in profitable long-term relationships and contracts with businesses, there is a lot to lose beyond the physical products.

While some loading dock security threats can be obvious, there are other, overlooked threats affecting your supply chain security and in-turn, your bottom line.

Top Loading Dock Security Threats and Solutions

Security threats at the loading dock can be both intentional and unintentional. From outright theft to environmental hazards and cargo contamination, every warehouse manager and chief security officer need to, first, be aware of loading dock security threats in order to implement the best solutions

Cargo Theft and Product Tampering

Threat: Theft has always been an issue at the loading dock, but tampering is something that should receive equal concern. As unfortunate as it is, the threat of terrorism by way of tampering with trailer loads is real. If a trailer is accessible to criminals, the opportunity for sabotaging products or planting explosives exists.

FreightWatch International, a global logistics security services company that aims to mitigate risks associated with cargo theft, reported that hot spots for theft and tampering include port cities like California, Texas, Florida, Georgia and Illinois. From these ports, trailers will move on to destinations that could be targets for terrorists.

For criminals, access is typically gained through unsecured or unmonitored trailers and dock openings. Ensuring your cargo and access points are secure is the first step toward reducing your risk.

Solutions: To reduce risks for theft and cargo tampering, proper loading dock equipment and communication is paramount.

If a truck backs up to the loading dock but the trailer isn’t secured to the dock itself, you’re creating a potential opportunity for criminals to steal the truck and its contents. To combat this issue, dock lock vehicle restraints, like Rite-Hite’s Shadow Hook, can be implemented.

The Shadow Hook vehicle restraint secures both intermodal containers and trailers to the dock. Even if that doesn’t visually deter potential thieves, the audible alarm and outside light monitors should. This dock lock can also be linked with an active building security system that will communicate a warning to operators if an engaged restraint is tampered with.

Dock lock vehicle restraints address theft from the trailer, but what about accessibility through your loading dock doors? Particularly in the hot, summer months, it had been common practice to keep dock doors open all day long, even when not in use. Leaving your dock open or installing manual, overhead doors that have easily breakable locks are two easy ways you’re also opening your warehouse and cargo up to the potential for theft.

While it used to be normal to keep dock doors open to allow cool air to enter the warehouse, retrofitting existing doors with ventilation panels can allow outside air and light into the plant. In addition, high speed doors for exterior applications allow for trailers to backup to a closed door and, once secured, have hands-off door opening controls so the only time the door is open is when a trailer is loading or unloading.

Contamination and Cargo Health

Threat: The security of your cargo goes beyond theft. Not only is security needed to avoid theft, but it’s also needed to avoid costly cargo contamination or damage. Contamination or damage can come in many forms. Environmental hazards, for one, can lead to spoilage of cargo or contamination by mold or other bacterial growths due lack of temperature control in the trailer or warehouse.

Cargo damage at the loading dock, on the other hand, is an issue when forklifts are transferring between the trailer and the dock. Dock shock, for example, can occur when forklifts are transfering materials on an uneven surface between the dock and trailer. This can cause vibrations that can lead to chronic back and neck injuries, product spills, and equipment repair costs. The security of your investment or relationship with suppliers or buyers is at risk if not addressed properly.

Solution: Combating dock shock to secure your cargo and personnel can be addressed by utilizing contemporary loading dock levelers. Outdated levelers have been known to create a bumpy transition, but by implementing automatic, mechanical and air-powered dock levelers, you can provide a smooth transition for forklifts from warehouse floors to trailer beds while also protecting against vacant dock drop-off accidents.

Damage Caused by Extreme Weather

Threat: Environmental hazards may not be top-of-mind when considering security threats, but it should be. First, let’s consider your dock doors. Environmental impact on your loading dock doors can be substantial if the proper type of door isn’t installed. If you’re in an area that is prone to high winds, hurricanes and the like, you need to ensure that your doors can handle the impact that the weather brings.

If high winds can either take down or damage your doors, you’re looking at access points that thieves may take advantage of. Similarly, your warehouse may deal with temperature-sensitive products. If damage to doors or existing gaps can adversely affect your temperature control efforts, you’re looking at the potential for the security of your warehouse operations being compromised.

Solutions: To address sustainability for loading dock doors in extreme weather conditions, options, like Rite-Hite’s FasTrax High Speed Doors, made for exterior applications that can withstand high winds is recommended.

The threat created by gaps can be addressed with the use of loading dock seals and shelters. Dock seals utilize foam pads that the trailer compresses into when it backs in and comes to rest against the dock bumpers. This forms a gasket-type seal around three sides of the trailer.

Similarly, dock shelters seal the perimeter of the trailer and forms a seal by applying pressure against the sides of the trailer with industrial fabric curtains fitted with fiberglass stays.

At the end of the day loading dock security, like safety, must be addressed. With the proper implementation of equipment, training and a fluid sequence of operations, you can reduce the security threats when you’re dealing with the transfer of cargo.

The threat will never be extinguished completely, but you can reduce your risk dramatically as long as you’re aware or the risks and proactive with solutions.  

Reduce Security Threats at the Loading Dock by Contacting Us Today!

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