September 27, 2021

Five methods for reducing pharmaceutical cargo theft

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Effective methods for reducing the risk of pharmaceutical cargo theft

In North America, five percent of cargo thefts that occurred in 2020 were pharmaceutical products and 74 percent of all cargo theft occurred in transit, according to the BSI and TT Club Cargo Theft Report 2021.

In the US and Canada, the biggest threat comes when containers or trailers are parked at insecure locations, as those were the most exploited vulnerabilities last year. Market dynamics also changed due to Covid-19, as demonstrated by the fact that the theft of stolen cargo in the form of medical supplies such as PPE, increased by more than 5,000 per cent in 2020, compared to 2019.

The cost of losing medicines and equipment due to theft is too high when the patient is the one that suffers most from lost cargo. Therefore, pharmaceutical manufacturing companies must make sure their logistics and trucking vendors are taking every possible measure to reduce risk during transport, protect the cargo and, by extension, the patient. 

It cannot be understated how vitally important data security and the standard operating procedures of pharmaceutical logistics are in order to protect medical shipments. Here are some simple methods companies can employ to ensure protection for life-saving treatments.

How to improve the physical security of shipments

  • Use team drivers when available: Team drivers, which are two drivers that alternate shifts to enable a truck to continuously move along its route without having to succumb to mandatory rest periods that single drivers must adhere to. While it can be difficult as there are widespread driver shortages, team drivers are the best way to keep pharmaceutical products on the move. Due to limitations in how many hours a driver can work consecutively, a single driver will be forced to stop for a period of 10 hours after driving 14 hours. This increases the risk of theft for long-distance pharmaceutical deliveries as they will be at stationary locations for an extended period of time.
  • Advise delivery drivers to avoid stopping within a certain radius of known facilities, if possible, and vary routes to any facility: A pharmaceutical company’s manufacturing locations can be easily identified, and criminals will look for patterns in deliveries to or from the manufacturing sites. It is important for trailers not to stop within at least 100 miles of the drop-off site and take alternative routes as any pattern is a vulnerability that must be avoided.
  • Insist that logistics companies use containers or trailers with logos or other markings on the assets for pharmaceutical shipments: In North America in 2020, 13 percent of thefts included the vehicle, container, or trailer. In these cases, if the asset is solid white in color or is not easily identifiable, it is unlikely to be recovered. Therefore, highly unique containers or trailers may have a slightly lower risk for theft compared to generic white containers or trailers.
  • Install trailer door switches and locks: For security and visibility, these systems enable companies to see when the trailer or truck doors are open and whether the lock is engaged. They can only be unlocked with digital access in combination with the door’s traditional physical lock in order to enhance physical security.
  • Leverage multifactor authentication on all assets that have access to the location of pharmaceutical shipments: Make sure the locations are secure and protected by strong security passwords and multiple modes of security access to reduce any risks of cybercriminals accessing information that, in their hands, could enable the theft of pharmaceutical products.

The tactics listed above, along with other creative solutions, can help pharmaceutical manufacturers protect themselves against cargo theft and ensure medicines make their way safely to the patient.

Understanding the biggest risks during transportation and keeping the lines of communication open with all vendors, presents opportunities to protect the high-value medicines and medical equipment being shipped from point A to point B and anywhere in between.

Learn more about how Thermo King helps fleets reduce security risks.