Somewhere in America, a truck driver is calling in from a delivery site to report that the order was short. However much the dispatcher on the other end of the line argues that the freight was carefully loaded and then double and even triple checked, the driver doesn't back down. The order came up short. The receiving facility corroborates the claim. There's nothing more to say.
Of course it's possible the shipping crew forgot to load a few cases onto the truck. But there are more sinister possibilities as well: The driver may have sold the "missing" pieces for cash prior to arriving at the receiving location. Or the driver may have sold the product in question directly to someone at the receiving location for cash, then had the receiver corroborate the shortage.
Nobody wants to acknowledge the possibility, but your own in-house truckers could be robbing you. The problem is more widespread than you might think. Though only a relatively small percentage of truckers are dishonest, they're responsible for losses estimated at more than $10 billion a year.
And if they aren't stealing your goods, they could be "stealing" time. Time theft can inflate your overhead by thousands of dollars a month, and it's all too easy to commit. Drivers have the luxury of operating without direct visual supervision. And given the logistical variables of traffic, weather and mechanical problems, it's almost impossible to know if a driver is "padding his run."
Someone to watch over them
What can you do? Some companies have turned to technology, installing GPS (global positioning systems) on trucks in order to track their whereabouts. Though GPS can help expose time theft, it does have its limitations. If a driver's selling cargo off his truck during breaks, for example, the GPS can track him to the truck stop but it has no way of revealing what's really going on there. Likewise, if a trucker is conducting illegal transactions near delivery locations— or with dishonest receiving personnel at the delivery locations—GPS is of little use.
A better way to gain control is by arranging for periodic driver surveillance. Covert surveillance will expose drivers who are selling product to locations not on their assigned routes, taking unauthorized breaks or using drugs or alcohol during the workday.
That smacks too much of Big Brother? Think about it. You wouldn't dream of firing your warehouse managers and allowing selectors and loaders to work unsupervised. But isn't that what essentially happens with drivers? Throughout the course of their workday, truckers cruise the highways with little or no direct supervision.
And temptation's never far away: Drivers routinely get propositioned at truck stops, or even at delivery locations, to sell that flat-panel TV or digital camera for cash. This can prove too much to resist—especially for drivers bedeviled by financial pressures or drug problems. How long can you really expect them to resist a blatant opportunity that carries little risk of being caught?
With surveillance, however, you can tip the odds in your favor. Surveillance increases the chances they'll be caught and helps ensure they won't get away with it. In cases where you want to discipline or terminate a trucker, you must have irrefutable facts, not circumstantial evidence. In a formal hearing, what could be more convincing than presenting photographic or video evidence that clearly shows a driver delivering 10 cases of product to a location he had no legitimate reason to visit? Chances are, when confronted with video or film evidence, guilty drivers will confess and let their terminations go uncontested.