MGA chief executive emphasises that ‘insurers should be playing our part’ in championing and raising awareness of specific sector issues that could lead to high value claims

The chief executive of a cargo specialty MGA has told Insurance Times that the insurance industry needs to take a stand over the rising tide of cargo theft and throw its weight behind pleas for the creation of more safe parking spaces for heavy goods vehicles (HGVs).

Gerry Sheehy, chief executive of Leeds-based Fiducia, said he welcomed last week’s (24 November 2022) statement by member organisation the Road Haulage Association (RHA) about the need to cut red tape to make it easier for safe stops to be built across the country for HGVs.

The RHA’s call came after the UK government announced on 24 November 2022 that it was encouraging truck stop and service station operators to apply for funds from a £32.5m pot - created last year - to redevelop amenities for truckers.

In the RHA’s response to the government announcement, Richard Smith, managing director of the RHA, urged ministers to reform planning regulations to help tackle the estimated shortage of 11,000 safe and secure lorry parking spaces.

He said: “We’re pleased to see that service station operators can apply for grants to improve facilities for drivers – the standards at many truck stops are poor so it’s right that the government has shown this commitment.

“But thousands of truckers every night are still left without safe and secure places to park.”

The association is encouraging the government to reform its National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which sets out the government’s planning policies for England and how these are expected to be applied.

The RHA proposes that the NPPF is amended to reflect regional and national needs for lorry parking, reduce the distances between facilities and properly prioritise driver welfare.

Industry role

In July 2021, Sheehy and Paul Langan – chief executive of Twenty 51 Risk Management and Investigation - wrote a joint letter to then transport secretary, Grant Shapps, urging the UK government to play a part in the creation of safe parking zones for haulage drivers.

Sheehy said: “The National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (NAVCIS) is a national police unit and part of [its] remit includes maintaining a focus on vehicle freight crime.

“[NAVCIS has] identified the extent of HGV, freight and cargo crime in 2020 as 4,574 crimes with an estimated total loss value of £97.1m.

“The true value is far higher when you consider most losses are recorded on a cost basis and not [a] sales value, which can be three times higher than cost. Secondary costs must also be considered, such as full orders being cancelled due to the ordered amount not being available.”

He added that while his letter to Shapps last year fell on deaf ears, Fiducia has continued to engage with the Department for Transport in an effort to see movement on this issue.

Sheehy continued: “The statement [from] the RHA is extremely welcome and highlights that the issue [of safe parking and thefts from HGVs] is still extremely real.

“For insurers, there is the rising level of theft from vehicles which are forced to park in areas which are wholly unsuitable and unsecured. For the RHA, [it is] concerned for the safety, health and wellbeing of the drivers and as an industry, we as insurers should be playing our part in raising valid and ongoing concerns.

“In our letter to Grant Shapps, I said there is no better time to review why UK freight can become vulnerable to attack and to identify the actions which can be implemented to prevent these type of high value losses occurring.”

Difficult to define

Outlining the current problem in more detail, Sheehy explained: “The larger haulage providers have secure depot yards strategically placed around the UK, which allows them to a park a vehicle overnight in a secure location. Other hauliers try and secure a place at one of the independent truck stops with secure parking facilities.

“A large proportion of trucks are parked on the ordinary motorway service station parks and on the side of public roads, which leaves the loads vulnerable to attack.

“The size of the problem in relation to quantity and value of loss with this type of crime is difficult to establish as police and Home Office statistics do not isolate data for this crime type. In addition, the quantity and value of loss has not been established within most police crime reports.

“Thefts typically occur when HGV drivers with loaded trailers park in motorway service stations and on the side of public roads to take overnight sleep breaks in their cabs. In the morning, they discover the curtain sides of the trailer have been cut open and the load or part of the load has been stolen.”

Sheehy emphasised that “there is no doubt that there is an inadequate amount of secure parking facilities for lorries within the UK”.

He believes that the solution lies in “the UK government and local councils” investing in “motorway service station companies, truck stop parks and new build sites to provide secure parking facilities”.