Seal Guard Lock ensures proof of load integrity
Jul 1, 2004 12:00 PM
Probably anyone who watches those constant crime dramas on television knows the term “chain of custody.” In presenting evidence in court, lawyers must show a continuous chain of custody for that evidence. In a less dramatic, but just as important setting, motor carriers also must prove a chain of custody for freight.
For-hire carriers have always been required to show that freight is properly secured while in transit. In some instances, the word of the carrier has been enough evidence. In other cases, the presence of a light metal or plastic seal on the trailer door hardware has been required. Since the threat of terror attacks came to vivid reality three years ago, the chain of custody for food products has taken on new urgency.
In the past, carriers would take possession of a sealed trailer at the shipper's dock. If the load required more than one stop, the driver would simply break the first seal to make a delivery and replace it with another before proceeding to the next stop.
That all changed in September 2001. After the terror attacks and the anthrax scares, receivers began taking seal integrity seriously — too seriously, some carriers think. Receivers worry that taking food from a trailer that shows up with a broken seal or one with a different serial number than that recorded on the shipping paperwork could result in major liability. Carriers began to realize that seals are more important than previously thought.
Any one with access to a loaded trailer has the potential ability to break the seal, says Tom Pirnie, president of Grand Island Express in Grand Island, Nebraska. Grand Island Express is primarily a meat hauler with a fleet of 125 tractors and about 200 refrigerated trailers. The company has sales of roughly $30 million per year. The real problem with broken seals is the uncertainty that comes with the discovery. “Anybody, a disgruntled driver, a competitor's driver, a perfect stranger can break a seal, and when the receiver discovers the problem a claim for several thousand dollars can result,” he says.
Seals, like locks, mostly are for honest people, Pirnie says. Given the right tools, enough time, and the ability to avoid being seen, a thief or terrorist can get into almost any trailer. The purpose of security systems like locks is to encourage a potential thief to pick a different target, he says.
Shippers and receivers depend on seals to prove the chain of custody for loads. To keep customers happy and reduce the potential for unwarranted claims, Pirnie began looking for a device to preserve seals on trailer doors. Not finding anything acceptable, Pirnie and his brother Keith set to work making their own. They would come up with an idea and turn it over to Randy Kunze, lead technician at Grand Island Express for fabrication. The basic idea involved a metal box that could fit over the hasp of the trailer locking rod to protect the seal from tampering.
Seals come in different sizes and shapes. The light metal or plastic ones are relatively flexible and could be easily bent to fit inside the box. Seals that use steel cable are a bigger problem, because the cable is stiff. The box had to be big enough for cable seals and open at the bottom to let excess cable hang out, Pirnie says. It had to mount securely on various types of door hardware, which, although, all similar, may have slightly different shapes and hasp sizes. Obviously, the seal guard needed a lock that would be difficult to break, he says.
When Grand Island Express began using its first 50 seal guards in fleet tests, customers immediately started asking where to buy them. Rather than try to manufacture the seal guards, Pirnie took the idea to Transport Security Inc in Waconia, Minnesota, and secured an agreement for Transport Security to make and sell the new invention. It is marketed as the Enforcer Seal Guard Lock. Transport Security already produces a line of other heavy-duty locks to prevent tractor, trailer, and cargo theft.
The Enforcer Seal Guard Lock is sold in two versions. The basic model allows carriers to provide their own padlocks to secure the seal box in such a way that the padlock is protected as well as the seal. A second version uses a special bolt to secure the box. A matching wrench is needed to open the bolt.
Grand Island Express uses the Seal Guard Locks for every load. All company drivers and independent contractors are issued two guard boxes. In case the driver must drop a loaded trailer, the second Seal Guard Lock is available for the next load. For more information on the Enforcer Seal Guard Lock, contact Transport Security at 952-442-5625 or visit transportsecurity.com.
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