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Cargo Trailer Theft

Contractors know that thieves like to steal cargo trailers, and protecting them is a constant concern. Whatever may be behind the four walls in a cargo trailer is a target and a challenge to protect.

Protecting Cargo Trailers

Slowing down cargo trailer theft requires diligence and multiple layers of protection. Thieves watch for vulnerabilities and have ways to cover their tracks. Thieves may pick locks, steal cameras, disconnect lights, or attempt to remove identifiers from trailers.

Create a theft prevention policy and procedures

  • Assign tools, if you have a crew
  • Limit (avoid) loaning and borrowing
  • Use lists to keep track of tools
  • Establish a pack up process
  • Establish a lock-up policy

Set up layers of protection

  • Place a lock on the hitch as well as the doors
  • Put cameras on the trailer and at fixed locations pointing to the trailer
  • Enhance lighting
  • Use anti-theft equipment (wheel locks, coupler locks, GPS tracking devices)
  • Make access to the hitch difficult, such as parking a vehicle in front of the trailer
  • Remove a wheel if the trailer will be parked for an extended period
  • Hide trailers from traffic and walkways
  • Use buildings and tall fences to your advantage
  • Secure the trailer to a fixed object or use an anchor, if possible
  • Use security fencing, if possible


  • License and register trailer
  • Advertise business with decals and lettering to make identification easy
  • Weld business name and number on the trailer near the hitch
  • Use fluorescent paint for marking; it is difficult to cover with other paints

Insurance on Cargo Trailers

Auto insurance covers trailers during towing; otherwise, there is no coverage for the trailer unless the trailer is listed on an automobile policy.

Insurance on Tools in Cargo Trailers

Commercial property insurance is coverage for equipment inside a building. It does not cover equipment that moves around from one location to another.

Inland marine insurance or equipment floater insurance, also known as contractor tool and equipment insurance, is optional insurance that can be added for the loss of tools and equipment that move from one site to another location. It does not cover stationary tools. Inland marine insurance has a deductible and a coverage limit. This is separate insurance from the business policy. Inquire with an insurance agent to add coverage for tool and equipment transported in a cargo trailer.

I recently received a quote, which conveniently works well for calculating. The premium was $500 a year with a $500 deductible for coverage up to $5,000. Here is an example of how a loss payout works. We could all assume an insurance company would not renew the policy if claims were turned in four years in a row, and we certainly hope no one would have that type of luck.

Year 1$500$500$5,000$5,000$4,500
Year 2$500$500$5,000$7,000$4,500
Year 3$1,000$500$10,000$2,000$1,500
Year 4$1,000$500$10,000$12,000$9,500
Total$3,000  $26,000$20,000

Tools are listed as either unscheduled coverage or scheduled coverage, based on the tool’s value.

  • Unscheduled coverage – blanket coverage for tools with a value of under $1,000 – $1,500
    • Has a set coverage limit and deductible
    • Most insurance companies only offer cash value for unscheduled coverage
  • Scheduled coverage – the policy will list each item and its value
    • Cash value – pays on the depreciated value
    • Replacement value – pays to repair or replace at the actual cash value

Policy Exclusions

  • War, government seizure, nuclear hazard
  • Pollution damage
  • Changes in temperature or humidity
  • Loss of documents
  • Strikes
  • Earthquakes and floods
  • Wear and tear

Policy Endorsements

  • Flood and earth movement
  • Electrical and power supply disturbance coverage
  • Upgrade value
  • Loss of income


  • Keep an itemized tool inventory recording purchase date, name, serial number, and purchase price
  • Mark equipment with the business name and phone number
  • Take pictures of the inside, both empty and filled with tools
  • Take photos of each side of the outside of the trailer
  • Weld or engrave the business name and phone number on the frame

Act Quickly if Your Cargo Trailer is Stolen

The quicker news spreads about the theft, the more potential for covering the stolen trailer. The chances of recovering a stolen trailer and contents are best within the first 48 hours after the loss.

If serial numbers on tools are provided to police, police are able to search pawn shop databases.

  • Immediately report the loss to the police
  • Contact your insurance company
  • Appeal to social media
  • Search locally lost and found Facebook groups
  • Monitor Facebook marketplace and Craigslist

Tracing Cargo Trailers

Some states don’t register trailers, and some states use a sticker on the tongue rather than a license plate. Even though licensed, thieves can remove the license plate quickly and sell the trailer. Reselling stolen trailers is very easy because there isn’t a national stolen trailer registration like vehicles.

Recovering from a Stolen Cargo Trailer

Time is money. Stolen equipment is a setback financially for replacing tools and losing work time. Even with insurance, the loss will not be fully covered, and it can take some time to receive payment from the insurance company.

The loss of everything a person has worked for is devastating and feels violating. It is understandable to have a difficult time with this setback. Well-meaning people may question how it happened and why this or that wasn’t done. They may even suggest that you give it up. While this is a setback, it is difficult but not impossible to bounce back.

The ability to recover from a loss is dependent on your ability to secure financing. You are in a much better position to recover with a high credit score, assets, and savings.


Loans, this one is tricky. Banks will look at the financial health of a business. The banks look for profitability and at credit scores. SBA does not offer loans for the replacement of stolen equipment. 

Credit Cards

Be careful with credit cards. Credit cards are an easy go-to for quick money. However, credit cards with high-interest rates should be reserved for emergencies and considered after other options have been exhausted unless they can be paid back quickly.


Crowdfunding allows the community to support and help you get up and going again. Gofundme is a personal fundraising site. Grab attention with a well-written appeal. Let clients, friends, and family know about your crowdfunding effort and ask them to pass along your request through their social media.

Yard sales

When you started your business or even before that, you may have watched yard sales.  This can be an easy way to pick up hand tools and the occasional corded tool. Great finds can also be found at estate sales and online marketplaces. 

Friends, Family, Clients

You may be amazed at the generosity of others. Those around you may not realize the prediction you are in and may be willing to help get you to get up and going again. Let others know, share your story. You may be able to borrow tools temporarily, or someone may let go of their old tools. Friends or family may have resources available to provide you with a short-term loan. Clients may even be willing to put a deposit towards future work.

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Job Safety and OSHA

Safety regulations in the United States have been enacted due to high injury and death rates in the workplace. Job safety laws have evolved through a period of over 250 years. Today job safety is overseen by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA).

Industrial Revolution

By the 1760s, brought on by the industrial revolution, factories contained machines, chemicals, and dust that led to unsafe working conditions and gruesome injuries. Massachusetts passed the first inspections law in 1877 requiring guarding of belts, shafts, and gears, protections on elevators, and adequate fire exits. That passage of the law set off a series of states following up with factory acts requiring machine guarding.


Shaft mining was hazardous. Mineworkers faced falling rocks, suffocation, and flooding. Children were often employed in mines. The first Federal mine safety act was passed in 1891. It prohibited hiring children under 12 years old and established minimum ventilation requirements in underground coal mines. In 1910, the Bureau of Mines was created to promote safety in mines after the deadly accident at Monongah, West Virginia, killed 362 miners in 1907.

National Safety Council (NSC)

The National Council for Industrial Safety was established in 1912. NSC was formed by a group of business owners to collect data and promote accident safety programs. In 1913, it became the National Safety Council, a nonprofit organization. The National Safety Council is a safety advocate that focuses on eliminating the leading causes of death.

Department of Labor (DOL)

The Bureau of Labor was first established under the Department of the Interior in 1884 and became an independent agency in 1888. In 1903, the department was moved to the Department of Commerce. In 1913, President William Howard Taft signed a law establishing the Department of Labor and Department of Commerce as separate agencies. The Department of Labor is responsible for work hours, pay, safety and health, unemployment, and employee pensions.

Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA)

President Lyndon Johnson called for an overhaul of the Department of Labor for its inadequate standards and enforcement of laws in 1968, but the bill failed. In 1969, President Richard Nixon presented a bill promoting the efforts of private industry and state governments.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration was created by passing the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. President Nixon signed the act to create safe and healthy working standards. United States Department of Labor oversees OSHA.

OSHA Responsibilities

OSHA holds employers responsible for providing a workplace without serious hazards. Employers must follow OSHA safety and health standards. Standards are the rules that employers must to protect employees.

Employers have many responsibilities under OSHA.

  • Display the official OSHA Job Safety and Health – It’s the Law poster.
    • Provide safety training
    • Provide required personal protective equipment
    • Inform workers about chemical hazards
  • Eliminate or reduce hazards
    • Keep records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
    • Perform tests in the workplace, required by OSHA
    • Provide hearing exams or other medical tests
    • Post OSHA citations and injury and illness data
    • Notify OSHA of a workplace fatality or work-related inpatient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye (1-800-321-OSHA [6742])
    • Not retaliate against workers for using their rights under the law, including their right to report a work-related injury or illness
Safety Programs

The goal of safety programs is to “find and fix” problems proactively to prevent injuries and illness. Employers are responsible for tailoring the safety program to their business.

OSHA provides tools to implement safety programs that will meet standards, such as an example safety program, implementation checklist, self-evaluation tool, and audit tool.

OSHA also provides training materials such as publications, videos, and interactive Web-Based training through the resource center.  

Employers with questions can reach out to their local OSHA office. Twenty-two states operate OSHA-approved job and safety programs that meet or exceed OSHA standards.

Seven Core Elements

OSHA centers its programs around seven interrelated core elements which involve action items.

  • Management Leadership
  • Worker Participation
  • Hazard Identification and Assessment
  • Hazard Prevention and Control
  • Education and Training
  • Program Evaluation and Improvement
  • Communication and Coordination for Employers on Multiemployer Worksites

Crosswalk is a table that shows the relationship of the core elements from OSHA’s Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs to existing standards.

The Summary of State Safety and Health Program Activities breaks down mandatory and voluntary state activities by Program or Plan, Safety Committee, Consultation/Training, Worker’s Compensation Premium Reduction, and Awards.

Toolbox Talks

Safety training implementation is ongoing, and toolbox talks are easy to incorporate into a safety program. A toolbox talk is a brief discussion on a safety subject or issue. Before starting a new project, hold a safety meeting to review risks and hazards. Toolbox talks throughout the project reinforce the basics, help prepare for high-risk situations, and help to keep employees informed of changing situations.

OSHA provides a list of safety and health topics, and state programs offer additional safety materials. For instance, Washington State provides a year’s worth of toolbox topics created for the construction industry, which includes an introduction and a guide for discussion for each topic.


OSHA provides free educational consultations to small and medium-sized businesses to help employers learn about workplace hazards and improve their safety programs. Safety consultations are voluntary and confidential. OSHA doesn’t assess or report citations and penalties during consultations. However, employer’s must agree to correct any issues found during the consultation.

Fall Safety

Since 2012, OHSA has held a National Safety Stand-Down in the first week of May. The National Safety Stand Down raises awareness of falls, the leading cause of death in the construction industry and the most frequently OSHA standard cited for violations. A Safety Stand Down is voluntary, and anyone can participate.  It can be a one-time event or incorporate events throughout the week.


OSHA Form 301, Injury and Illness Incident Report, must be completed within seven days to record single incidents.

Form 300, OSHA’s Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses, is required for most businesses to maintain. Employers in states with State Plans may be exempt from using Form 300 but may have other reporting requirements and forms.

The Summary (Form 300A) is posted visibly for employees to view at the end of the year.

OSHA requires employers to report fatalities within 8 hours. An inpatient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye must be reported within 24 hours.

Jobsite Safety Meeting with Walk Around Inspection

Speaking of safety, does your safety program have a form for a Jobsite safety meeting? Implement Jobsite meetings and document them on the Jobsite Safety Meeting with Walk-Around Inspection form. For construction companies in Washington State, you must conduct walk-around safety inspections and document them. See WAC  296-155-110

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