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Modern Trucking Techniques
Load & lock
Securing your load and equipment is easy with a variety of locks on the market

By Paul Abelson 
senior technical editor

Why should you secure your rig? It’s critical for your finances, your livelihood and your reputation. Consistently deliver on time, without freight claims, and you’ll get the highest paying loads. Delivering damage- and loss-free involves securing your loads (see related story on load securement on Page 106) and your truck. 

Here’s how to keep your cargo and rig safe from break-in and theft. 

Security begins with attitude and awareness. Avoid situations that can lead to theft or that make it easier for the bad guys. Park in areas with high pedestrian traffic. At night, stop where lighting is good. 

Be wary if conversations turn to your load or schedule. Information on your cargo and its destination is no one’s business except for you, the shipper and receiver. It’s fine to say you’re delivering to Joliet, but you probably don’t want anyone to know that what you’re carrying is going to the Joliet Arsenal or to a Best Buy store.

Your load need not involve national security to be of interest to the bad guys. Almost any load going to a retailer or warehouse has street value. Very few have so little value as to make them unprofitable to crooks.

Slow them down
“You need to cause the thief to work harder,” Erik Hoffer, president of CGM Security Solutions, said at a recent Technology and Maintenance Council meeting. He chairs two committees of the International Cargo Security Council and is an authority on theft prevention.

“There is a 90-second rule. If they can’t get going in 90 seconds, they know the chances of being caught go up geometrically. 

“When faced with obstacles, they give up and move on.”

“The Club” and similar devices immobilize steering wheels, but just for a few moments. Once in your vehicle, professional thieves use high-powered portable tools with carbide or diamond cutting wheels to quickly get through hardened steel. The devices deter amateurs, but not the real pros.

One popular point of entry for thieves are safety windows in passenger doors. If you have one, consider putting a bar across it on the inside. Those windows are held in place with rubber grommets. By wrapping a brick in a towel, placing it against the window and pushing, thieves have an opening to reach up to your door handle. An alternative is an eyeball mirror on your hood, which will cover the same area the window does.

Kill switches
Thieves want to be in and out in minutes. They try to enter trucks quickly. Without security, they can have the ignition out in seconds using a simple dent puller. They cross wires to start the truck.

If you immobilize your tractor, it can’t run down the road with someone else driving. The easiest way is to hide a kill switch, a device that prevents electrical current from flowing from the batteries or to the starter or engine control computer unit. 

If you block current to the ignition system, you force the thieves to take precious time to search for the kill switch. This forces them to give up on your truck and go on to an easier one.

A kill switch can be located anywhere in your truck. With enough cable – make sure it’s heavy enough for the current and distance – you can install a kill switch in a remote corner, preferably where it is too confined for a thief to easily get at with tools. 

Before using kill switches or current interrupters, make sure you check with your dealer or manufacturer. With electronic engines, you may void or alter your warranty if you interfere with current to the ECU.

Braking break-ins
Air brake locks are among the most effective deterrents, provided they are sufficiently hardened. If thieves cannot release a tractor’s brakes, they can’t drive it away.

OOIDA members and Landstar owner-operators David and Barbara Cormier of Crestview, FL, developed the Air Cuff Lock. It is now sold by Transport Security Inc., makers of The Enforcer line of security products. 

The Air Cuff encases the red and yellow valves on the dash, preventing the brakes from being released. It is held in place by an Abloy lock cylinder. 

Gabriel Technologies and Wapner Corp. also make air brake valve locks. CGM makes its own line of security devices and sells Wapner Truck Alarm Systems products. 

Wapner also makes an electronic ignition lock using a tag similar to the device Mobil introduced on its gasoline pumps. The driver’s radio frequency device is touched to the ignition lock on the dash. An LED then lets you know if you are authorized to start the vehicle. 

At this year’s Mid-America Trucking Show, International Truck and Engine Co. introduced its own electronic security. I had an opportunity to test drive the truck at International’s headquarters in Warrenville, IL, prior to the show.

Without being told what to do, I got in, made sure the brakes were set and the 8600 was in neutral. I turned the key and the engine started. When I shifted into gear, it died. That happened again when I released the brakes. 

Then Mike Frasure, International’s marketing manager, showed me how to enter a pass code. The tractor ran perfectly. Without the code, it wouldn’t move.

Paul Abelson may be reached at