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How Asset Tracking Helps Address Cargo Theft and What That Actually Means for Your Business

Cargo theft is on the rise in North America as thieves become more sophisticated at targeting cargo. In the first quarter of 2019, cargo thefts increased by 25%[i], with an average value of $116,717. Compounding the issue, SensiTech estimates that the actual cost of the loss is three to four times larger than the value of the product.[ii] Depending on the goods being moved, a single loss can add up to $1 million dollars,[iii] with only 20% of cargo theft ever recovered, according to recent FBI estimates.[iv] Self-insured operations must cover the cost of these thefts themselves, while insured companies could see increases in premiums, especially in high-risk areas.

So, how can fleets address the impact of theft on their business? Asset tracking is one way to help reduce the impact of theft through improved recovery and deterrence. This article discusses how asset tracking protects your business as well as key considerations when selecting and implementing a solution.    

How Asset Tracking Helps Address Theft and Protect Profits

Christopher Plaat

About Christopher Plaat

Christopher Plaat is Senior Vice President & General Manager, BlackBerry Radar

Tracking cargo laden assets provides deeper visibility to where your shipments are and the status of those shipments. For most operations, trailers, chassis or containers spend a significant time unconnected to a tractor or outside of yards. So, even if tracking solutions are deployed on the tractor or within a yard, there are likely significant gaps in visibility. Event-driven visibility for trailers, containers and chassis, provides information that can be used to identify unauthorized use, so you can act quickly. 

Thieves are effective at targeting assets to maximize the window of time between the theft and when the theft is noticed, usually choosing assets in secluded or unsecured areas over a weekend. Monitoring your trailers or containers can reduce this window by alerting you to events that are outside your normal business operations. For instance, asset tracking helps you know: 

  • When a trailer or container door is opened outside of a designated loading or unloading area
  • When a trailer or container door is opened outside of business hours
  • When an asset leaves a designated loading or unloading area outside of business hours
  • When an asset leaves a region outside of your service area
  • When an incorrect tractor picks up your asset
  • Using one of our existing integrations or develop a custom integration using open API, to flag and validate that the correct tractor picked up your asset using location and motion data
  • Where your asset is and the status
  • Monitor unauthorized usage and theft easily from the dashboard. Alert local authorities when necessary and provide detailed location information, through a secure, dynamic link.

The transportation industry is a business constantly under margin pressures, and theft has significant impact on profits for fleets. Asset tracking can deliver a strong return on investment by helping protect cargo and assets. For example, take a fleet of 300 assets, and as mentioned, the average theft value across North America is $116,717. If just one theft event is prevented or recouped per year, the annual cost for asset tracking services would pay for itself twice over, not including any additional benefits, such as, increased asset utilization or saved driver time.

If your company is a target of a successful theft, in addition to the cost to your business, you will need to have a tough conversation with your customer. On the other hand, fleets that have implemented asset tracking can add enhanced shipment visibility and security to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Increasingly, customers will look for these features when deciding to ship with a provider to give them confidence in the secure transport of their goods. 

Key Considerations When Choosing an Asset Tracking Solution to Address Theft

There are many options when selecting an asset tracking solution for your business. Considerations, such as having ruggedized and long lasting devices, a stand-alone power-source as well as the type and frequency of sensor readings, will affect the solution success no matter the implementation objective. When choosing a solution to help address theft, there are a few elements to evaluate carefully. 

Stealth Hardware

If the primary use-case for your asset tracking solution is to address theft, look for devices with discrete or stealth installation options that do not negatively affect performance. While some operations choose to promote that their assets are tracked by adhering a decal as a deterrent, the device should still not be obvious to reduce the chances of tamper.

Because BlackBerry Radar has discrete installation options, under the chassis or at the nose of the trailer or container, thieves may not even be aware that there is technology on the asset. Regardless, if a device is tampered with, an alert will be delivered along with the GPS coordinates and status so that action can be taken quickly. 

Cybersecurity Threats

With the rise of cybersecurity attacks across industries, transportation companies must protect themselves as they adopt more technology in their operations. While these technologies can address industry pain points, it is essential that the data collected and created is secure.  Data security needs to be built into the solution, from the device to the portal. Effective security cannot be an add-on.

BlackBerry is the gold standard in end-to-end enterprise data security and privacy.  For instance, the BlackBerry Radar device is protected using the following BlackBerry Certicom technologies and industry standard protocols, to reduce the risk of cybersecurity threats:

  • X.509 certificates for device authentication
  • Service authorization using tokens
  • TLS 1.2 and Elliptic Curve Cryptography for data transmission encryption using AES 256

Minimizing Risk and Controlling Data

Another concerning trend, as thieves become more sophisticated, is the involvement of company insiders. Even if the data is secure, steps need to be taken so information does not fall into the wrong hands.  For that reason, look for a secure solution that allows you to manage access to data.

For instance, one of the most common reasons to share asset data is to provide personnel in the field with the location and status. This information helps teams be more efficient by reducing wasted time looking for assets. The BlackBerry Radar solution offers dispatchers a tool to send coordinates, location details and asset status to a specific infield personnel, such as a driver. However, without checks and balances this information could be used maliciously, either by accident or purposefully.

BlackBerry Radar has unique security mechanisms to minimize the risk of sharing this type of information for operations:

  • A dynamic link that only provides the details of one specific asset, not your entire fleet
  • Access to that information is only granted for a time period determined by the operator, up to a maximum of 240 hours
  • Access to this information can easily be revoked at any time 

5 Questions to Discuss with Your Team When Implementing a Solution

While the information delivered from the solution must be secure, reliable and actionable to empower your team to manage assets more effectively, there needs to be internal processes in place to maximize the benefits and reduce risk.

As you look into asset tracking for your business, start internal discussions on how you will manage the information to address theft. We recommend discussing these five key items with internal stakeholders before rolling out the solution:

Defining Theft Events: What Types of Activity Could Indicate a Theft Has Occurred?

Every business is different. Discuss likely theft scenarios with your team to determine what customized alerts should be set up to quickly notify them of a theft in progress. Ask your team question like:

  • What do our normal business operations look like?
  • What did previous theft activities look like?
  • What type of activities could indicate that an asset has been a target of theft? 

Minimizing Risk: Who needs access to the full solution with login details?

Controlling access to the portal will help minimize risk. When considering who should have access ask questions like:

  • Which employees need to have high level visibility versus those who need regular access for reporting and/or monitoring?
  • What guidelines are in place around sharing data from the portal internally and externally? 

Determining Responsibility: What type of notifications and who should receive them?

When setting up alerts, consider who will receive them and what actions need to be taken. It’s likely not every possible theft event will be a crime and should be validated before escalating. Start categorizing alerts and identifying key people by asking:

  • What type of notifications will you have? Do they represent different risk levels?
  • Who should receive the different levels of notifications?
  • Do you have multiple people receiving the same notification as a fail safe? How do they communicate to ensure that multiple people are not taking the same action? 

Aligning on Process: What are the next steps for those receiving the notifications?

Communicate the process for actioning alerts to help avoid scenarios where your staff might put themselves in danger and also ensure speedy action is taken.

  • How should theft events be validated? Should the driver or security be called and/or additional systems checked?
  • If a theft event is validated, who should be notified and in what order?
  • When are the police contacted and provided with specific asset details? 

Communicating to Customers: How will you communicate your new service offering to customers? 

Decide if and how you would like to communicate your new service offerings to customers and prospects. Create a communication plan outlining how visibility and security fit into your overall offerings and outline the benefits to your customers. Consider the following questions:

  • What information are you able to provide to customers regularly and when?
  • How will you communicate to your customers?

Ultimately, asset tracking is a tool to help your business operate more efficiently by saving you time and costs. Theft prevention is one reason to implement asset tracking; however, asset tracking has been effective in helping fleets improve their operations in numerous ways. For instance, some of BlackBerry Radar’s customers have improved their asset utilization by up to 12%, others have saved 30 minutes per driver per day and others have been able to reduce maintenance costs by 60%. Asset tracking can help to redefine how you use your assets and increase contribution to your bottom-line. As we all know, knowledge is power, and knowing how your assets are being used will help you to determine efficiencies to maximize your investments every business day.

Learn more about BlackBerry Radar.


[i] Ronan, Dan. “Cargo Theft Cases Rise in 1Q,” Transport Topics (26 June, 2019).

[ii] “Supply Chain Security: Securing the global supply chain.” SeniTech Inc (2019). Retrieved at

[iii] iBid

[iv] Turner, Bill. “Cargo Theft Statistics: Unreported Incidents May Greatly Understate the Numbers.” Loss Prevention Magazine (September 5, 2018). Retrieved at