10 Tips on How to Prevent Train Cargo Theft

Trains are easy targets for thieves because of their ease of access and lack of security. Here are some tips to protect trains and their cargo.

Last Updated:
February 23, 2023
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min Read
Sarah Paxton
Marketing Writer

Paramount Studios missed out. A mere twenty minutes to the west of its headquarters, a Hollywood script could have been filmed, complete with a train robbery, fire, beer crates, Tesla boxes, and trash strewn everywhere.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said, “The images looked like a third-world country” when he visited the site in January 2022. (source: LA Times)

Train cargo theft is an ugly reality, and not just in California. And while train cargo theft is not widespread, prevention has been a huge issue. Trains are huge. Their loads are enormous. And train yards are even huger. So, as in the recent case, train robbers could easily walk on-site, pry into the train cars loaded with valuable personal goods, and steal anything they can get their hands on.

Unfortunately, the railroad doesn’t have a cleaning service to come around every morning and tidy up the mess left behind by train robbery.

In response to the significant increase in train cargo theft, Union Pacific recently erected fences and sent up drones to deter thieves. Union Pacific even has their own private police station on-site. Six officers protect the train cars from LA to Yuma, Arizona. But the crime persists even as train cars move out into the desert. 

So if drones, police officers, and fences don’t work, how do you prevent train cargo theft? A planned approach—utilizing research-based strategies and the latest technology is the best way to reduce and eliminate these crimes.

The following are ten tips on how to prevent train cargo theft:

  1. Use ISO 17712-compliant seals. These secure bolt and cable locks ensure no tampering occurs during transit. 
  2. Upgrade containers with t-bar locks.
  3. At each stop, carefully walk around, inspecting seals and door locks to ensure there is no evidence of tampering. Document these checks.
  4. Load containers door-to-door. This helps prevent potential tampering with container doors from points A to B.
  5. Install GPS trackers on all rail containers. Monitor freight in real-time to verify delivery time and provide an extra layer of protection against theft.
  6. Install door locks or sensors that send alerts when a container door is opened. 
  7. Create procedures and systems for security throughout the supply chain. This standardizes the process and helps train employees to protect cargo from theft. In addition, these protocols proactively mitigate risks and keep personnel prepared when events occur.
  8. Educate employees on any irregularities that could signal that a container has been tampered with before departure. Regular training ensures employees stay up-to-date on industry standards and can identify potential risks.
  9. Ensure train yards along the route are secured adequately with cameras, lighting, fences, and guards to restrict access and prevent train cargo theft.
  10. Use technological advances in security systems to secure physical locations, deter criminals, and alert authorities when a robbery occurs.

Trains are centuries old. What is new are the security solutions available in one powerful, remote mobile unit that protects railways and cargo in even the most remote location.

LiveView Technologies (LVT) provides on-site security entirely customizable for the cargo, location, and gaps in coverage. In mere minutes, LVT can protect any train cargo from thieves. In addition, LVT provides a significant time improvement and technology upgrade, with less staffing and higher confidence levels than the previous forms of security available.

From an app, companies can watch their perimeter (or detection zone); sync multiple security units, cameras, and sensors; get real-time alerts and notifications; store images and recordings; and confidently protect their train yards, cargo, and storage sites against train cargo thieves.

The old saying, “You’re never too old to learn,” can certainly be applied to the railroad transportation industry. Using new technology significantly upgrades the safety and security of valuable cargo. Rail still transports one-third of the country’s exports and 40% of long-distance freight in the US.

Consumers love household products, batteries, paint, chocolate, shrimp, and Christmas trees. So the next time you glance over headlines about train cargo backups in the supply chain or cargo theft, take a second look and consider the importance of security upgrades.

Find out more about how LVT can secure cargo loads and train yards and schedule a demo now.

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