Stopping Workplace Thieves

Jim Luff
Posted on March 9, 2010
SLIPPERY FINGERS: The transportation business affords many opportunities for employee theft. From the theft of time through unauthorized use of vehicles to the theft of fuel, cash, beverages and other things, theft prevention is a constant battle.
Throughout the years it seems I have played a cat and mouse game and always tried to stay one step ahead of the cat. But as fast as I come up with methods for curbing theft, employees find methods for defeating systems. I am not just talking about outright theft but incidental theft of office supplies and beverages and small things such as towels that people don’t equate to being of any value. But multiplied by a large workforce, they become significant drains on the budget.
No one thinks twice about taking a bottle of water and consuming it, and I don’t want to be so petty that I make a big deal out of it. But when you have 20 people working in a day and each one has two bottles of water, you have easily consumed nearly two cases of water. At about $5 a case, that adds up to $150 per month spent on water that never made it to the intended clients and passengers.
In my latest case of theft, I thought I had seen it all. But I could not have seen this one coming. We had three vehicles missing their annual tag off the license plate. Obviously the theft was not random and had to be an “inside job.” I decided to keep quiet about the theft and told only two people in the company about it with instructions to be on the lookout for any employee cars with 2011 tags. Thanks to an alert administrative assistant, we found a vehicle in our parking lot with a tag that expired in May 2011. Since it was February, it was suspicious. I took the registration card to the vehicle, and sure enough, it was our tag on a new employee’s car. I was outraged. So much so, that I photographed it and turned it in to the California Highway Patrol for prosecution and set the guy up for a traffic stop.
The theft of time is virtually eliminated by the use of technology through radio dispatch combined with GPS vehicle tracking and software that requires an input by the dispatcher as far as when the chauffeur clocks in, departs the garage, arrives at the pickup location, loads the passenger, and drops them off.
Since all those times are along with billing the client and for payroll calculation, it is difficult to pickup and extra “side job” using a company vehicle. The theft of soft drinks and bottled water was cured by buying a bank of lockers. Each chauffeur is given an allocation of supplies based on his assignments for the day, the total number of passengers expected on each run, and the duration of each run. I have open inventory shelves allowing people to help themselves. If the driver wants to offer an extra bottle of champagne, he should buy it himself. 
I would like to open a discussion about theft problems you have had and how you curbed them. Sharing this information can help other operators develop new controls and point out theft areas we might be unaware of. What theft problems have you tackled?

— Jim Luff, LCT contributing editor

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Jim Luff Contributing Editor
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