Cargo theft is big business and takes on many forms

Both manufacturing and the transportation of manufactured goods are vital components of the American economy and the Nation’s economic well-being. According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, companies last year spent a Record $1.5 Trillion on Shipping Costs in the U.S., up 6.2%.1  And demand is not expected to slow.

Unfortunately, in recent years, the theft of goods in transit has taken on many forms.  Criminals are engaging in “strategic thefts” where fictitious pickups are scheduled, “pilferage” where only a few pallets of goods are stolen, and the most well-known “cargo theft” where entire truckloads are being stolen. The annual losses attributed to these thefts are estimated in the billions of dollars.

Products in transport provide significant opportunities for access. For example, an unattended tractor trailer loaded with millions of dollars of high value finished goods could be stolen in a matter of minutes. All that it would take is for a trained team of criminals to know about the shipment. Such as, members of a Louisville, Kentucky-based crime ring were recently sentenced in Federal Court for their roles in a cargo theft conspiracy that lasted several years and was responsible for more than $30 million in stolen cargo. The group would target tractor trailers with high value goods at truck stops. The truck was usually abandoned within 20 miles of the theft, but the trailer was hooked up to a waiting truck operated by another member of the crime ring and driven to Louisville where the goods would be sold on the black market.


What’s the best way to keep my cargo safe?

The rapidly changing world of cargo theft and evolution of new criminal techniques requires that companies adopt more stringent security and safety measures in the transportation of goods to keep their supply chain safe. Companies must develop preventative controls to protect against cargo theft.

During the transport of products throughout the supply chain, it’s important to continually audit and evaluate the full chain of custody to mitigate vulnerabilities.  Security measures should make it as difficult as possible for a criminal to tamper with or acquire goods and products.

What’s the best way for companies to improve security and safety measures throughout the end to end process of production, storage, transportation, and receiving - and keep their cargo safe?  A layered security approach offers the greatest deterrent to both tampering and theft. 

With its origins in military strategy, the term layered security describes the practice of combining multiple mitigating security control measures to protect resources.  For goods in transit, this could mean securing the cargo inside of a truck, train or ship as well as the vehicle itself.   

What’s the most cost-effective security seal?

Starting with the most cost-effective type of security seals, indicative security seals, are designed solely to show evidence of or “indicate” tampering and are not designed to be a security device, but rather a visual indicator of tampering as well as a deterrent to theft.  These security seals can either be fixed in length or adjustable. The most widely sold indicative security seal on the market for transportation is the plastic truck seal.  As its name implies, the plastic truck seal is frequently used to secure truck latches to show evidence that the truck door has been opened. Additional examples of indicative security seals include Tug Tights, All Seals, Equiloks and Plastic Padlock Seals

While indicative security seals are most frequently made of plastic, they can be made of other materials including wire or flat metal such as one of the oldest security seals on the market, the Tyden Ball Seal. Indicative security seals come in numerous shapes and sizes, such as security tapes or labels, which you may recognize on gas pumps and fire doors.  

Indicative security seals are commonly used to secure manufactured goods or cargo itself.  Such is the case for drums and totes that may have a wire or plastic seal fed through the aperture of their lid to secure them or a shipping pallet full of high value goods that may have security tape or labels applied to the outside or inside of shrink wrap to show evidence of tampering.

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What security seals deter theft?

Barrier security seals are designed to provide a “barrier” to or deter theft, while indicating tampering.  Barrier security seals, including bolt and cable seals, are generally considered high security seals.  High security seals are required to have the ISO and C-TPAT certification.  

The use of high security cable seals and bolt seals on trailer, rail and shipping containers help keep criminals from gaining access to cargo.  Cable security seals can be made of aluminum, like the patented FlexSecure. Unlike most aluminum seals that use a flat disc, the FlexSecure uses a round ball-bearing in its locking chamber that does not touch the chamber walls, making it near impossible to tamper with.  Cable seals can also be made of zinc, like the EZ Loc that is made of durable die-cast zinc that has a small chance of being compromised.  The new over-molded EZ Loc Plus offers the same level of security, starting with its zinc body that is then over-molded, allowing for various marking options for customized tracking.  Both the Flex Secure and EZ Loc use a non-preformed security cable that frays when cut to show evidence of tampering while both pull tight for maximum security and can only be removed with cable cutters. Depending on the application, government regulations can dictate the need for specific diameters, lengths, or composition of the seals.

Bolts seals like the Snaptracker and Intermodal are CTPAT compliant for cross-border shipments and meet ISO 17712:2013 standards.  These bolts provide superior strength and deterrent and require bolt cutters to remove. The new Flex Bolt seal is made from galvanized aircraft cable and is more pliable than traditional bolts but still meets the ISO 17712:2013 standards and requires cable cutters to remove. 

EZ Loc Plus and Sealock

What if I want even more protection?

For an additional layer of security, hybrid tamper evident devices can be added. Seals like the SeaLock SL immobilizes the container by locking the sides of the doors and the door latch. The device requires two cuts for removal, and exceeds all ISO 11712:2013 Clause 6 standards and CTPAT standards for high security seals. 

EZ Loc Plus and Sealock

Where can I buy security seals?

Using security seals to mitigate cargo theft during transportation is a cost-effective and smart strategy.  Tamper evident security seals can lower your risk of loss immeasurably.

TydenBrooks is the largest and most experienced security seal manufacturer in the United States. We offer uniquely designed products to fit any application in the transportation of goods, with a suite of customizable solutions virtually anywhere in the world. Our full line of security seals, tapes and labels supplement and support your loss prevention procedures for goods in transit.

Contact us at 1-800-458-SEAL or to tell us about your application needs and learn more about how our security seals can protect your supply chain. Whether you are looking for indicative security seals for finished products and ingredients or cable and bolt seals for containers and trucks, we have the solution for your needs. 

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1 Phillips, Erica E. (2018, June 19). Companies Spent a Record $1.5 Trillion on Shipping Costs in 2017. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from