Security of freight is increasingly important to the freight and commercial vehicles sector – and ITS has a part to play. Europe’s economy lost approximately €9 billion as a result of road freight thefts in 2007. The equivalent figure for the United States of America was approximately $30 billion. Whilst some of this is due to a lack of secure lorry parking facilities the risk of theft is to some extent mitigated by the improving nature of technology.
Asset tracking enables operators and fleet managers to be far more aware of the location and current circumstances of their fleet and assets. Tracking can either be active geo-locational broadcasting or more passive read-only technology. Once installed, provided that the system is not disabled (many are hard-wired into engines and computers) assets or loads can be traced in the event of a vehicle being stolen.
If a thief cannot be deterred through well-layered, complementary security measures, more active defence is often required. Multi-level security systems and remote disabling arrangements have proved particularly useful here. It is now possible for central controllers or operators to be alerted and to use a “kill switch”, immobilising the vehicle, so preventing the theft from continuing any further.
Together these approaches are helping to boost freight and asset security. The field is one that is constantly evolving as lawbreakers seek new ways to evade security systems.
Most security systems include several layers of security which interact to support each other and make the load more secure. For instance vehicles that are locked from the outside and secured in a fenced parking lot monitored by CCTV might also have a tamper seal on the load. Combining such systems is likely to deter thieves, delay them, help detect their identity and also assist in calling for a response from the emergency services should they persist.
Remote vehicle disabling systems typically rely on wireless communication systems, integrated with the on-board computers of the vehicle. Authorised users can, if they need, disable the vehicle to ensure the safety of any personnel on board or the security of any freight, or even the vehicle itself. Remote disabling is often the last line of defence in a multi-layer security system. It is important that the vehicle is stopped in a controlled and safe manner which is normally achieved through turning turning off the engine and allowing it to drift to a halt. Safer systems are generally preferred – these usually involve:
Vehicle disabling systems are often linked to door or cargo sensors, trailer connection or disconnection systems or electronic cargo seals. Should any of these register a pred-defined reading, the vehicle disabling system will be instigated and a report sent by wireless or digital media, back to the operator. This is often used on refrigerated vehicles, where the vehicle is not allowed to start all conditions for the load are within acceptable parameters (such as coolant levels in the refrigeration unit).
Geo-fencing is a further development of this concept. Here, a distance-based ring is set (say, with a 5 mile radius of a depot) and the alert system is only activated if the vehicles goes beyond this radius (the geo-fence). This can be extended to enforce a planned route or corridor. It allows trucks to take a minor diversion without activating the immobiliser – for example to be taken for attention at a local garage or moved for loading.