High-value products create element of risk for transporting
By Armando Perez
Imagine you have gone through all the trouble, heartache, headache and “bankache” that it takes to become a state-licensed cannabis producer, only to have all your hard work disappear in the middle of a shipment. At the end of the day, everything you have invested boils down to what is protecting your product from the point it leaves your operation to the point your buyer takes possession.
This final step is the most vulnerable step in any logistics process. When the cargo is as highly valued as marijuana or cash, the risk represented by that last mile is enormous. It’s not just the risk of loss, but what that first shipment represents that is also so important. That first shipment is the justification, the legitimization of all your efforts and the final hoorah moment preceded by an incredibly trying process of charting uncharted territory.
You’ve finally got cash flow; you can live to the next crop and maybe even make a little profit if you’re lucky. But you can only do that if your shipment makes it where it’s supposed to go. One carload of hoodlums can take your validation and turn it into a nightmare. It’s time to get to know the ins and outs of supply chain security and mobile asset tracking.
There is so much more to running a successful and secure marijuana business than the product itself. Getting your operation off the ground was just the first step. If you thought complying with the state’s surveillance regulations were tricky, wait until you get into the world of protecting your investment on the open highway. News flash! The bad guys don’t care what regulations you do or do not follow — they just want to take everything in that truck!
First let’s identify the risk factors. We will specifically be dealing with hijacking. This is not the only risk, but it is the most obvious and most likely. Therefore it is the one we should spend the most time on. TAPA has defined the riskiest part of any transport to be the 50 miles immediately after leaving your origination point and the 50 miles before your arrival point. Immediately you should be concerned, because for most people reading this, that 100-mile stretch is your entire cargo route. And if you haven’t managed to solve the banking problem, it could also include your entire trip to pay your tax bill in cash.
Rest stops and fuel stops are the next big risk factor. When a transport is stopped, the cargo is at significant risk. If that stop is scheduled and unnecessary with proper planning, then this practice should be stopped immediately. Get fuel before starting your trip, carry extra fuel on the vehicle and don’t allow scheduled or unscheduled stops when transporting inventory or cash. If the vehicle is forced to stop in transit, then get it to another vehicle immediately and keep it moving.
The third important risk factor is the predictability of the route. Act as if someone is always watching what you are doing, because chances are, some of you reading this may have already been cased. This is not a tactic to create fear, this is a wake-up call to heed the lead of Big Pharma and acknowledge the risk in transporting expensive controlled substances. If someone is watching your transport habits, you need to make sure to create multiple routes to the same destination. Make sure the chosen destination is known by as few people as possible.
However, hijacking is not the only thing to be concerned about. You should also be concerned about the driver of the truck, the company that rented, sold or modified the truck, your hourly employee who knows when that truck is leaving and where it is going. The protection of transported assets is big business, and that’s because it’s a big risk. If you are renting your truck, then don’t just schedule it for the day you need it, create diversion and doubt in the eyes of whoever may be watching. This may sound silly, but diversion is the second-most important tactic in the world of protecting transported assets. What’s number one? Well, let’s just say you can’t steal something if someone is always watching it. GPS has reached the point where a logistics-focused GPS tracking provider can alert key people of trouble as it is happening and alert authorities of the exact location. But better even than that is alerting the key people that the cargo or driver is doing something considered high-risk before anything happens. This means not only using tracking on the truck itself, but also embedding the cargo as well and creating automated alerts that trigger if any specific high-risk circumstances are met, including deviation from the specific route for that day. Big Pharma’s use of these systems has helped it reach critical mass, bringing the cost down to an affordable level for small businesses involved in transporting high-value cargo. As much as diversion is a proper tactic for preventing theft of cargo, it is also the key tactic to initiate the theft of cargo, so we must be vigilant of even trusted employees to ensure the safety of what could be an entire year worth of profit in one truck-load.
Simply getting the industry to start talking about the risk of moving product will be a step in the right direction and a sign that this industry and its business owners are maturing.
Armando Perez is the general manager of CCTV Dynamics (www.i502CCTV.com), a surveillance equipment distributor with a focus on system design and custom security camera systems, as well as offering a marijuana-specific GPS tracking service called W