Dianna Whitby | Deer Park Consulting, LLC
Your customer is livid! Their order is 24 hours late! Where is the shipment? You immediately start bargaining with a Higher Power, “Please don’t let this be a stolen load! I promise, I’ll buy three dozen Girl Scout cookies. I’ll donate fifty bucks to the Humane Society! Just puhllllleeeeeease don’t let that load be stolen!” Did that ever work for you? I know it never worked for me, so here is a list of practical (and sneaky) things you can do to find your load.
If you are working with a large carrier, you can just sit back and let them handle the situation, but if you are working with an owner-operator, or a small carrier and the owner is on a load himself, you may have to “help” out.
There are several reasons not to call the police. The first is that only the owner of the tractor-trailer or the cargo may report a theft, and, as a 3PL, you aren’t either one of those. Law enforcement generally will only take a report in the jurisdiction where the theft occurred. If you knew that, life would be so much easier.
You may choose to call a private investigator, but, they also will need a place to start. Why not put on your own “Sherlock Holmes” hat and narrow down the search area? You will still be the “Company Point Person” for the PI, and it’s so much easier when you tell the PI that you have already checked several things—who knows, you might just be able to find your load, before calling in the pro!
Be kind and compassionate! Remember, you are seeking information, not an indictment. You would be surprised how eager people are to help you if you ask and not demand.
Be proactive! Check the carrier’s DOT on SAFERsys.org. Choose the SNAPSHOT option. There is a possibility that the phone number listed on the website will be the carrier’s home phone, not the cell phone you have on file. If you are working with a small carrier, ask for the driver’s contact information. If anyone answers, ask them if they have heard from the driver and if everything is OK. Keep that number! The person answering may be able to file a missing person report!
Be an investigator! Did you or the truck owner give the driver a fuel advance? See where it was cashed and when it was cashed. If it was cashed at a truck stop, call the truck stop. Ask for the fuel desk (because they seem to know “everything”) and ask them if the driver was arrested, taken to a hospital, or if the truck is in the back lot. Generally, the truck stop manager will check the yard and call you back in an hour or so.
Be bold! Call the local jail near the truck stop and the final destination and see if your driver is a guest of the county. (I could tell you stories that would curl your hair!) All you generally need is their name and date of birth, information you should have on file if you have a copy of the driver’s CDL. If you do find your driver in the local lock-up, ask where they were arrested. You may find the truck just sitting there, or in the impound yard.
Be sneaky! Call the carrier’s insurance agent and see if they have reported an accident or other issue. The advantage here is now the insurance agent is wondering what happened to your driver, and they might make a few calls for you, as well.
Be kind and compassionate! Remember, you are seeking information, not an indictment. You would be surprised how eager people are to help you if you ask and not demand. Stress that the driver isn’t “in trouble,” you just want to locate them. Show more interest in the driver than the load. If you have hired a PI, here is a chance for “Good Cop/Bad Cop.” Be the Good Cop! I remember a wife calling me and saying that she never wanted to talk to that “nasty man” again. In the next breath, she told me where her husband, and the load, were located. He was having a “dispute” with the truck owner and wanted to teach him a lesson.
In many ways, investigating a potential theft is the ultimate rush. No one “really” thinks you will find it, but when you do, it is so sweet! Good luck!
Dianna Whitby is Principal at Deer Park Consulting, LLC. She may be reached at DeerParkCargoClaims@gmail.com/.
Images credits: IQONCEPT/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM, ALAJ/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM