Strategies to Prevent Trailer Theft by Organized Criminals

Consider how a caravan worth $330,000 disappeared in just 17 minutes. A recent incident highlighted the audacity of highly motivated organized criminals who targeted distribution centers undeterred by traditional security measures. These criminals brazenly prowled industrial areas, looking for vulnerable spots. In a bold move, they set their sights on a tractor connected to a trailer as part of a facility’s dynamic loading process. After unplugging the tractor, they drove it to a nearby site, using automated cutting tools to get through the gate.

Consider the implications: The breach triggered an alarm at Central Station, but the lack of an effective security barrier allowed another team to enter the parking area and identify the target trailer. The stolen tractor was hitched to a trailer that was not properly connected to the dock and left. In just 17 minutes, a loss of $330,000 was incurred. This harsh reality became the foundation of our prevention strategy, with the goal of implementing a physical security system that would maximize the potential for police response in less than 17 minutes.

So what myths do we address when dealing with organized crime?

  • Conventional fences and gates will prevent unauthorized access and incidents. Battery-powered cutting tools overcome this common measurement in seconds.
  • Video surveillance will deter criminals. Traditional video surveillance designed solely for forensic purposes will be ineffective in preventing incidents and will have limited impact on the identification of offenders and prosecutions.
  • Well-lit areas will scare off criminals. Often seen as a deterrent, lighting also helps the adversary navigate the site and identify vulnerable assets.
  • Alarms sent to central stations will prompt police to respond in the event of a security breach. Police departments are understaffed and underfunded. Unverified burglar alarms are not a priority and there will usually not be a quick response, giving adversaries plenty of time to commit their crimes.

What is the approach to properly securing high-value trailers against determined adversaries? Let’s get back to the most fundamental basics of physical security:

  • Intelligence and Threat Assessment
  • Deter
  • Refuse
  • Delay
  • Detection
  • Assessment
  • Response and prohibition

Delay measures

Fences and vehicle barriers may not create a significant measure of delay, but when combined with detection technology, they can establish criminal intent when humans are detected in areas where their presence cannot be detected. only occur when the perimeter is violated.

Center pivot lock — King Pin locks are devices designed to secure semi-trailers. They work by preventing the trailer from being connected to a tractor (the truck part) and leaving. Pivot locks are typically used when a trailer must be left unattended for an extended period of time, such as in a shipyard or storage warehouse where motivated criminals may target them. The kingpin lock may not be invincible, but it will slow theft, the goal of the delay measure.

Wheel lock — Wheel locks can immobilize a trailer by locking on one or more of its wheels, making it difficult to move. Tractor-trailer wheel locks are typically made of heavy-duty steel and have two main components: a clamp and a locking mechanism. The clamp is designed to fit around the trailer or tractor wheel (usually one of the rear wheels). The person responsible for applying the wheel lock positions it near the wheel they wish to immobilize. It is important to ensure a perfect fit around the wheel. The clamp is then manually tightened around the wheel. It is designed to be adjustable to fit different wheel sizes.

When securely tightened, the wheel lock effectively prevents the wheel from spinning. Once the clamp is in place, a locking mechanism holds it securely. This may be a padlock, cylinder lock, or an integrated locking system with a unique key or combination. We recommend avoiding padlocks where possible given the ease with which they can be defeated by battery-powered cutting tools.

Dock lock – A dock lock can help deter and prevent trailer theft in specific situations, especially when trailers are parked or loaded/unloaded at a dock or shipping yard. A dock lock, often called a trailer or truck lock, is a device designed to secure the connection between a trailer and a loading dock. It works by immobilizing the trailer and preventing unauthorized access or detachment of the trailer from the loading dock. A dock lock is installed on the loading dock, usually as part of the dock leveler or a separate unit.

When a trailer backs up to the dock to load or unload, the dock lock engages in the trailer’s rear impact guard (often called an ICC bumper). The lock uses a hydraulic or mechanical mechanism to secure the connection. Once engaged, the dock lock is intended to prevent the trailer from driving away from the dock for security reasons, but it can also prevent a thief from chasing the trailer. This device cannot be used for ground level sectional doors. They are also worthless if they are not systematically engaged when trailers are dropped off at the dock.

Result of detection, assessment, response and interdiction

To overcome the burden of unverified alarms, it is essential to include a video verification element in a physical security program with a high threat of intrusion, burglary or trailer theft, as was the case here. Video central stations, or video monitoring centers, are facilities that will provide remote monitoring and monitoring services to organizations. These stations feature cutting-edge technology and trained staff to monitor security cameras, alarms and other devices in real time.

Organizations can install on-site video surveillance using analytics or more advanced artificial intelligence, intrusion detection sensors, and other security detection technologies. The sensing devices or technologies are then transmitted to a central video station for decision and response measurements. In some cases, IP speakers located near cameras can be used to respond to adversaries, which can be extremely effective in getting them to turn around and leave a property.

This solution was deployed to achieve a positive result in this case study. After speaking with the police and explaining how the detection technology would work, in conjunction with the central video station, they committed to a response time of four to five minutes in the worst circumstances, which brought us well back in time. below the scheduled seventeen minutes. The goal of the project is to prevent further trailer thefts.


Video central station with communication capability for IP speaker and for additional live video viewing requires an inbound connection to the owner’s network if video and IP speakers are connected. This can create a lot of unforeseen additional work to enable a secure connection if it is allowed. Any security solution that requires an inbound network connection should be handled with extreme caution. IT should be discussed as early as possible before a solution is put under contract.

Advancing Technology

More recently, some technological improvements have brought a new level of automation to detect, interact, deter intrusions and theft, and ensure rapid police response. The solution works as follows:

  • A fixed camera with artificial intelligence (object classification) monitors a protected area.
  • Upon detection, a corresponding pan, tilt and zoom camera with bright white light locks onto the object that has violated the security of the protected area and smoothly and effectively tracks the movement of the object within the limitation of the field of view of the camera. This obviously alerts the adversary of the detection and will often result in immediate departure from the scene.
  • An IP speaker will then project a pre-recorded message to the adversary.
  • After a specified period (e.g. 30 seconds), if the security violating object remains in the area, a second, more aggressive message can be projected or an alert pushed to a video center which can notify the police.

This is an exceptional solution in a scenario where you might be dealing with adversaries who are not organized criminals and would likely leave the premises after the initial lighting and voice prompt from the site security system. This configuration could also be deployed without necessarily having an incoming connection to the owner’s computer network.

The role of GPS

GPS may be the best solution if you can’t afford it or are unable to prevent trailer theft. Trailer GPS tracking devices, or asset tracking devices, are used to monitor and track the location and status of trailers, containers, and other moving assets. These devices use GPS technology and cellular or satellite communication to provide real-time tracking information. The GPS tracking device has a receiver that receives signals from several GPS satellites orbiting the Earth. These satellites provide precise location and time data.

These devices should be concealed as much as possible, otherwise they could be damaged and rendered useless. Users can configure various alerts and notifications. For example, the system can generate alerts if the trailer deviates from a predefined route, exceeds a certain speed, or enters or exits a designated geo-fenced area (e.g., shipyard). These alerts are sent to designated personnel via email, SMS or other communication channels. This information can be passed to police to help track down assets and adversaries.


Serious security issues, such as high-value trailer thefts, can be resolved by going back to the basics of physical security systems and programs taught for decades. Coupled with evolving technology and building a definitive design basis measured by how long it will take the adversary to commit a crime, security advisors can provide effective solutions to solve problems client. In this case study, adversaries proved they could enter the property and remove a high-value trailer in approximately 17 minutes. By using strong physical security principles, leveraging technology, and partnering with local law enforcement, the owner now has a solution that will ensure police respond within four to five minutes, thereby reducing the likelihood of similar incidents in the future.