Protect your assets: thieves target goods in transit

Poorly lit truck stops are often targeted by thieves - photo courtesy of Shawn Nystrand
Poorly lit truck stops are often targeted by thieves - photo courtesy of Shawn Nystrand

Violent attacks on trucks are becoming increasingly common as organised criminal gangs target lorries carrying high value assets, writes Tim Richards, a partner at Michelmores LLP.

The latest figures released by the Home Office indicate that there are approximately 3,000 HGVs stolen every year in the UK; almost 50% more than in 2005. Only 12% of those stolen vehicles are recovered.

Furthermore, recent figures indicate that theft of goods in transit is costing businesses in Europe in excess of £6.6bn a year.

Trucks parked in unlit lay-bys and trucks parked with their fuel tanks facing away from the road are key targets. If goods are stolen during carriage, this can have serious implications for all parties involved in the supply chain, and

If goods are stolen from a lorry, a supplier is likely to have a duty to try and recover the goods or otherwise supply equivalent goods to its customers within a relatively short period of time once the theft has been discovered. Both of these options have serious financial implications for the supplier, and the supplier is at risk of losing future contracts with that particular customer. This may also have an impact on the supplier’s reputation.

Where a supplier contracts with a third party to arrange for carriage of the goods, a supplier may be able to pursue the carrier for losses incurred in the event that the goods are stolen during transit. European legislation provides that a carrier is liable for the total or partial loss of goods under its control from the point at which they take possession of the goods until they deliver the goods to their destination.

Carriers have a duty to ensure that they act responsibly when they are transporting another company’s goods, for example they should avoid stopping in a known theft-prone area. It is important for suppliers to ensure that there is clear written evidence of the terms agreed with the carrier in case a supplier needs to rely on these at a later date.

There are a variety of safeguards which companies should consider implementing in order to minimise the risk of trucks being raided whilst on the road and to avoid the significant financial implications of the goods being stolen.

Where a supplier contracts a specialist haulage company to transport its goods, it is important that the supplier carries out full background checks on the haulage company. Well established, reputable haulage companies are likely to understand the importance of handling valuable goods with care and precision. Many thefts occur as a result of people tipping off or bribing security officers and lorry drivers and so it is also important to carry out verification checks on the haulage company’s employees, for example by checking licenses and references of the drivers. Larger well-known companies are more likely to ensure that their staff are highly trained and also fully briefed on each consignment of goods which they are responsible for.

Suppliers should ensure that they have adequate insurance cover in place, which allows them to make a claim in the event that they have to replace any goods, if the original goods cannot be recovered, which should reduce the financial consequences of goods being stolen.

Michelmores LLP can offer specialist legal advice on the implications of goods being stolen and the impact on any relevant contractual arrangements, whether in the UK or abroad. Please contact Tim Richards on 01392 688688 or tim.richards@michelmores.com for further information.