By: Morné Stoltz, Head of MiWay Business Insurance
Theft from moving vehicles, or from vehicles temporarily stopped at a red robot or any other innocuous place, is presenting a real and ongoing challenge to the businesses which keep South Africa stocked up and trading. Stats SA reported truck hijacking increased by 1.6% in 2018 – up from 1,183 reported cases in 2017. [i]As the country gears up for the festive season, there is a lot more stock on the road, so it is a good time to take notice, be careful and prepared.
While it is impossible for transport operators to prevent all incidences, it is possible to take steps to minimise losses and reduce the risk of compromised cargo.
These six top tips will assist you to take better control of goods in transit:
1. Alert drivers to the threat
On the whole, there has been a small increase in truck hijackings over the past year, while car hijacking has decreased. An estimated R8.5 billion is lost in vehicle theft and hijacking, so vigilance cannot be relaxed.
There are some places and routes which are more likely to experience pilferage than others. Keep track of the areas where attacks on trucks have occurred; your business insurer should be able to help, along with any records you might hold. The police’s crime statistics can also be used to pinpoint the areas where the risk is greatest – Alberton holds the dubious 2017 top spot for truck hijacking.
Communicate the risks to your drivers. If they know what to expect and are provided with alternative routes where possible, the chances of a loss are much reduced.
2. Camouflage the vehicle
It is neither necessary nor practical to paint your fleet like army vehicles, but a simple method of camouflage is to avoid branding on the trucks, particularly those carrying high-value goods. Where possible, a plain van or truck can get things from A to B without advertising its contents to would-be thieves.
3. Closed and locked
When under lock and key on the back of the truck, it is far harder for thieves to liberate goods in transit. While securing cargo in closed and locked bodies (and even fitting spikes to strategic areas of the vehicle) can drive up costs, it could be worth it if stock shrinkage is a big issue.
4. Consider alternatives
It is relatively easy for thieves to target large, slow-moving goods vehicles, particularly on steep or poorly-maintained roads. If the quantities are small, frequent and local, motor scooters might get the job done better. For longer distances, rail or air freight might provide viable alternatives which are far harder for criminals to target. Finding the best mode of transport now requires consideration of the losses, potential and actual, which can happen in transit.
5. Avoid overloading
Trucks that are overloaded use more fuel, have higher maintenance costs on brakes, tyres and shock absorbers, are slower and can be hard to control on downhills. Slow moving trucks are easier targets for hijackers or thieves. If you truck is highjacked while overloaded, your insurance cover may be void as overloading is illegal. Overloading is a major cause of accidents, and puts the safety of your goods in transit at increased risk.[ii]
6. Always have the right insurance cover in place
Goods in transit policies have become increasingly necessary with the rise in hijacking (which can result in the loss of entire cargoes) and thievery from moving vehicles. Be sure to choose the right level of cover; be aware that attempts to lower the premiums might actually come at the expense of transferring greater risk onto your business. This goes against the point of insurance in the first place. Rather be safe and be sure to cover your business for the worst-case scenario.
Finally, for those offering specialised transportation, consider specialised insurance cover. Refrigerated vehicles might have cooling malfunctions which could damage cargo. Cross-border operations require specifications within the policy to ensure cover is provided outside of South Africa.
For example, MiWay offers a standalone policy that covers goods in transit and is ideal for independent truckers, owner drivers, who transport goods for their clients where the onus is on the transporter to protect the goods carried in the client’s trailer. It was designed specifically to address the spike in thefts from vehicles.
By discussing your options in detail with your insurer, you will get the right advice and the right policies to manage and minimise the risks faced when transporting goods from point A to B.
MiWay is an Authorised Financial Services Provider (Licence no: 33970).
NOTES TO EDITORS: MiWay Insurance Limited (‘MiWay’) is a licensed direct short-term insurer and an authorised financial services provider, offering customers a range of short-term insurance products including motor, household, homeowners, business insurance as well as liability cover. MiWay is wholly owned by Santam, a blue-chip JSE-listed company.
Head of Business Insurance
Tel: (011) 990 0000
“SA loses R8-billion to car theft and hijacking each year’ – Vehicle crime still a major concern reveals SAPS crime stats”, Wheels24(12 September 2018), available at https://www.wheels24.co.za/News/sa-loses-more-than-r8-billion-to-vehicle-theft-and-hijacking-carjacking-still-a-major-concern-in-sa-reveals-saps-crime-stats-20180912.
“The worst hijacking areas in South Africa in 2017”, BusinessTech(26 October 2017), available at https://businesstech.co.za/news/lifestyle/207583/the-worst-hijacking-areas-in-south-africa-in-2017/.