At the Frontline: Security Director Richard Martin

May 27, 2008
Minimizing cargo loss at one of the nation's top trucking companies

Having a background in law enforcement, Richard Martin thought he had a grasp on cargo theft and how to combat the problem, but it wasn’t until he came to work for Knight Transportation in the summer of 2001 and started to interact with the different associations throughout the industry that he realized just how big of a challenge it truly was.

Martin is responsible for overseeing security for all of Knight’s operations, which encompasses 31 shipping terminals, 3,800 tractors, nearly 8,000 trailers, and more than 4,000 employees.

"At the time, I thought I had some knowledge on cargo theft and after getting involved with the (American Trucking Association), the International Cargo Security Council and the different regional councils, it was bigger than I thought," he said.

Since he took over as Knight’s corporate director of security, Martin, a former Atlantic City Police Department detective, has implemented new policies and technology with the assistance of upper management that has dramatically reduced the amount of cargo that the company loses every year.

Some of the technology implemented by Martin includes installing General Electric Co.’s VeriWise, a GPS asset tracking device, in the company’s trailers and Qualcomm tracking units in their tractors.

"Both have been huge in the recovery of any trailers that have been stolen," he said. "It works great with law enforcement because they know the systems work so if we call a law enforcement agency and explain to them that there’s been a theft and we are at present tracking a trailer, they respond."

One of the biggest challenges that Martin said he faced when he took the job was getting Knight’s terminal workers and drivers to understand the impact that cargo theft has on the industry.

"Anytime we’ve had an incident with a cargo theft it’s where we’ve had a driver that has violated our cargo security policy and normally what it is, is they drop the trailer and bobtail somewhere," Martin said. "I think that’s a major problem with every company."

At Knight, however, Martin said that they’ve been able to successfully get the message out to employees, who are now helping to combat the problem.

"They’re all on board," he said. "Whenever there’s a theft that occurs in the United States, we disseminate the information out right then to all our employees so they can see (where it occurred). In the beginning, I don’t think anybody really thought it was that big."

Martin said that anywhere between $10 billion and $50 billion worth of cargo is stolen each year in the U.S. According to Martin, those lost cargo figures also translates to hundreds of millions of dollars worth of sales tax revenues lost by states.

Due to the efforts of Martin and others throughout the company, Knight Transportation loses nearly 75 percent less cargo per trailer than the industry average. The tracking technology employed by Martin has allowed Knight to recover around 90 percent of stolen goods.

Another challenge faced by Martin and others within the industry was getting Congress involved in helping to pass legislation that would help secure cargo.

According to Martin, Congress recently passed a bill under the Patriot Act that creates a Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) code for cargo theft, which helps authorities and industry professionals keep track of statistics related to the crime.

"Up to that point, cargo theft was just treated as a theft. There was no real way to track the dollar amount," he said.

For his work in helping to reduce cargo theft at Knight, Martin was recognized earlier this month by the Security Council of the American Trucking Association as he was honored with the organization’s Security Professional of the Year award at the 2008 Trucking Security and Law Enforcement Conference & Exhibition.

"I didn’t know I was receiving it, I was quite honored," he said. "I know the award was given to me, but I really think that award should have been given to everybody at this company because I would have never got it without the support of everybody; without the support of operations, without the drivers’ support, upper management. This was really a team effort to get this award."

As opposed to other industries, Martin said that cargo shipping security is different in that operations are more spread out.

"A lot of your other industries, they have a facility or one property where in the truck industry you’ve got anywhere from a small truck line of a few hundred tractors up to 15,000 tractors spread out all over the United States that you’ve got to watch and try and keep secure," Martin said.

Martin estimated that the company moves between 8,000 and 10,000 shipments of dry goods per day alone. Knight is broken up into several different shipping divisions, including dry truckloads, refrigerated truckloads and brokerage.

In addition to cargo theft, Martin is responsible for addressing all of Knight’s security issues, which include such things as employee screening and compliance with federal and state security regulations.

Martin was instrumental in helping Knight receive its Customs Trade Partnership against Terrorism verification from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency, which ensures that the company is meeting the government’s security standards.

He has also overseen the implementation of the Transportation Workers Identification Card program that requires Knight’s container fleet drivers to obtain credentials from the Department of Homeland Security. The program's goal is to ensure that any individual who has access to secure areas of port facilities and vessels has received a thorough background check and is not a security threat.

Martin is a vice-chairman on the board of directors of the International Cargo Security Council and is also member of various regional cargo security councils.