By Paul Abelson
senior technical editor
You secure a trailer two ways: keep it from being moved and keep it from being broken into.
The former is accomplished by immobilizing the brakes, by preventing the landing gear from being raised or by preventing another vehicle from hooking up to the trailer and towing it.
The latter is accomplished by using secure locks and protecting them so it takes minutes, or hours, instead of seconds to break in.
You can immobilize a trailer’s air brakes by interfering with the connection of a glad-hand to the trailer’s air supplies, both for service brakes and the spring (emergency) brake. Glad-hand locks present a physical barrier against connecting the air supply to the trailer.
CGM Security has a far more expensive, but far more effective immobilizing device. Trucklock 1130 is permanently mounted inside the trailer. It needs no external power and can be key activated only when the trailer is stopped. It locks the air supply line from the glad-hands with an internal valve, locking when the air supply line is uncoupled. Trucklock 1130 releases with a key.
Traditional kingpin locks are large and heavy, weighing up to 20 pounds. They are effective in preventing most fifth wheels from coupling to the trailer, but some thieves use modified fifth wheels that grab kingpin locks. They cannot grab conical locks that just ride up on the fifth wheel and also deflect force to prevent impact damage to the kingpin.
Landing gear locks give thieves choices. They can take time to defeat the lock or run with the landing gear in the down and locked position, damaging the landing gear and calling attention to the rig. Or they can bypass the trailer and look for another.
Even if a trailer is not taken, its cargo must still be protected.
The first line of defense is the padlock, but locks are just deterrents. They may keep amateurs out of a trailer, but they won’t slow down a team of well-equipped professionals. Seals just let you know if there has been entry. Even cable seals don’t stop professionals.
Hardened stainless steel barriers protect padlocks to prevent, or at least slow down, attempts to cut or break your locks. They keep cutting tools from the locks.
Locking bars that grab onto the trailer’s keeper bars provide an additional level of complexity for thieves to deal with. The best leave barely enough room to get a key into the protected lock. But high horsepower portable tools and abrasive or diamond cutting wheels can defeat even the hardest steels in a reasonably short time.
The most effective barriers are internal locks. Identified only by a small keyhole, the Power In-Lock from Mi-Jack Systems and Technology can be mounted anywhere inside both swing-out or roll-up trailer doors. The latest model uses a radio frequency transmitter to activate the lock. Its electronic control unit tracks which remote control activated the system, at what time, on what date.
In a test, the robust system defeated a team of well-equipped security experts, keeping them out of a trailer for more than 30 minutes, after which they gave up.
The Rig-Lok from Wapner Truck Alarm Systems can be set to lock automatically when your door is closed. Its location is obvious, with a stainless plate riveted to the door. There’s a keyhole for the special key and a bright yellow and black label identifying that the trailer is protected by the Rig-Lok. The unit is constructed of hardened stainless and the proprietary key design assures that all keys are registered and cannot be duplicated without authorization.
In any security system, the lock can be the strongest or weakest part of the system. Premium locks, such as Abloy, W-Lok or Supra Padlock, have special types of keys and are highly pick-resistant. Hardened cylinders resist pulling or drilling with even the hardest tools. The Supra Padlock and CGM’s CyberLock have integrated electronics that record use and can block unauthorized keys.
Low-cost stamped and cast locks can be frozen to the point of brittleness and shattered with the tap of a hammer. Hardened alloy locks may cost $130 or more per lock, but they will stand up to almost anything thieves can do for longer than they care to wait. In security, you really do get what you pay for.
When it comes to securing your truck, have the right attitude and the right equipment. They will pay off in lower insurance premiums and higher paying loads.
Paul Abelson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.