The Rise in Hijackings Across South Africa

South Africa has seen a worrying trend of hijackings in recent times. This type of crime is not only terrifying for the victims, but also very costly, with the average hijacking costing a business more than R240,000. While there are many measures that businesses can take to protect their fleets from the ever-increasing risk of theft, it is important that owners and managers remain updated on the type of methods used, as well as what technology can help them avoid these risks in the future.

In this article, we will explore the various methods of hijacking used by “professional” hijackers in South Africa, the impact truck hijackings have on the economy and how fleet managers can best equip themselves and their businesses to safeguard their fleet against the rising threat of hijackings.

6 Types of Truck Hijacking Methods Every Fleet Manager Should Know

Fleet safety is crucial and should be implemented fleet-wide to reduce the potential risk of hijackings. Most victims are traumatised by the experience, as hijackers use a variety of methods to threaten, control and subdue them. The SAPS has reported that hijackers typically use threats of violence, often with a firearm, to gain access to vehicles. It is important to be aware of these hijacking methods so you can better protect your fleet and its drivers.

Here are 6 common methods used by hijackers and criminal syndicates operating in South Africa:

  1. Fake “Stop and Go” Setups
    Hijackers pose as fake police offices and set up fake roadblocks. These “police officers” will pull the driver over for inspection and, as this trap appears legitimate, the driver complies, bringing the vehicle to a standstill. This is when these hijackers will proceed to remove the driver from the vehicle, typically with force, before stealing and making off with the vehicle and its cargo.
  1. Vehicle Sabotage
    When a truck or fleet vehicle is stationary, whether at a temporary rest stop or at an intersection, the hijacker will tamper with the truck equipment, such as the brake lights, tyres or vehicle sensors. This way, when the driver sees something is wrong, they will stop to investigate the issue and it will be easy for the hijackers to take control of the truck.
  1. “Broken Down Car” Scams
    Hijackers will often pose as innocent victims of a car fault or breakdown and try to flag down a passing truck for help. When the truck driver pulls over to lend a hand, the hijackers will subdue the driver and make off with the vehicle and cargo.
  1. Forced Stop Tactics
    This is when a group of hijackers attempts to stop a truck in transit by, either, forcing it off the road using a vehicle or multiple vehicles or by having a vehicle rush in front of the truck then slamming on their brakes. As the driver attempts to avoid a collision, they will come to a complete stop or veer off course, allowing the hijackers to flank the truck and force the driver out of their vehicle before taking it for themselves.
  1. Diversion Tactics
    When a group of hijackers deliberately block the road with debris or hazards, forcing the driver to come to a complete stop or to change route. For example, turning onto another road where a trap may be set for them. Another method used is when a truck is standing at an intersection, the hijacker poses as a beggar, hawker or window cleaner, before pulling out a weapon. Once they have gotten close enough to the truck, they will smash the window or threaten the driver, grabbing them and forcing them out of the cab.
  1. Hitch-Hiking Schemes
    The hijacker will pose as a hitchhiker wanting a lift and will try flag down a passing truck for a lift. However, once they have gotten into the truck, they will proceed to subduing the driver by means of force, usually by holding them at gun point and directing them to the predetermined destination. This is where the official theft can occur – out of sight and with total control.

How Do Truck Hijackings Affect the Economy?

You may be asking yourself, how does hijacking trucks affect the economy? Based on the South African Insurance Crime Bureau, truck hijackings cost the South African economy roughly R3 billion every year. This is primarily due to the loss of cargo during the hijacking, as the truck itself is not typically the target of the attack.

Cargo theft during truck hijackings has a major ripple effect on the supply chains that feed our markets; going above and beyond mere stolen goods. With cargo being susceptible to hijacking while in transit, crime syndicates may attempt to steal it at various times during transportation. The most common goods being targeted include, but are not limited to, electronics, such as: laptops, TVs, household appliances, tyres, cigarettes, liquor, fuel and even groceries.

Let us take a look at some of the major contributors to the negative economic impacts cause by hijacking in South Africa:

  1. Increases in Insurance Premiums for the Logistics Industry
    Following the civil unrest that overwhelmed KZN and Gauteng in July 2021, the SASRIA bought increases of over 1700% in February 2022, as the special risk insurer looked to rebuild capacity after losses totalling R32 billion, spread over 14000 claims. The unrest coupled with the startling unemployment rate and the decrease of capable policing, has led to trucks and Goods in Transit increasingly becoming in the targets of criminal syndicates managing sophisticated hijacking operations.
  1. Delivery Delays Resulting in Decreased Customer Satisfaction
    Due to the supply chain disruption caused by hijackings, retail outlets and B2B companies are struggling to maintain customer satisfaction and service delivery standards. With decreased customer satisfaction, there stands to be a potential for loss of income, which translates to companies having to reduce staff or close altogether, thus increasing unemployment and reducing cash injections into the economy.
  1. Loss in Sales for Companies Across South Africa
    Nearly 2000 companies liquidated in Q2 of 2021, as a result of COVID and limited finances, on top of the unemployment rate that reached a record high of 34.9% in Q3 2021. Therefore, the loss of sales in companies nationwide cannot be overstated. It feeds into a larger, more vicious cycle of costs and losses exceeding income, companies liquidating, unemployment rising, crime being a last resort and then starting the cycle all over again.
  1. Increased Shipping Costs and Port Delays
    Supply chain disruptions caused by COVID, the sudden growth of the eCommerce market, logistic and shipping industry changes to carbon neutrality and the war in Ukraine are, but a few, important factors leading to the increased shipping costs. There have also been major port delays due to COVID restrictions and regulations, personnel shortages and unpredictable weather issues, such as the recent flooding that occurred in Durban.
  1. Unplanned Downtime for Businesses Around the Country
    Due to the supply chain disruptions, product shortages and product theft, companies have had to temporarily close their business. This is partly to avoid incurring additional costs down the line that could jeopardise their operations, but also because they do not have the necessary equipment or supplies available to render a specific service or sell a specific product.

The overall impact and costs suffered in the supply chain will, ultimately, affect the consumer and their ability to spend. This can also be seen in the increased cost of goods to help offset the financial losses experienced by companies who have been a victim of theft. In South Africa, disposable income has already been stretched thin and, with the increased rate of truck hijackings, it could have a devastating social and economic impact on the country.

How To Protect Your Fleet and Cargo on the Road

Gaining a clearer understanding of some of these hijacking methods can help fleet managers better prepare their fleets to reduce the risk of hijackings from occurring. There are not only anti-hijacking technologies that fleet managers could use, but also some personal safety tips that drivers should be aware of; should he or she ever be caught in a hijacking scenario.

Here, we outline a few anti-hijacking tools and technology that fleet managers should consider and some safety tips for truck drivers to keep in mind while on the road:

Fleet Management Solutions

  1. Fleet Tracking Solutions
    Consider a fleet tracking solution that provides you with an in-depth and real-time view of your fleet. For added value, see if the tracking solution includes an armed response option and recovery services should a hijacking occur. Combining this with your tracking solution can help ensure the recovery of your vehicle and its cargo, as well as the safety of your drivers.
  1. Video Monitoring Solutions
    With a video monitoring solution, you can have a real-time view of your vehicle from various angles, such as a side view, frontal view, rear view, in-cab view and more. Be sure the video monitoring solution allows for alerts to be submitted upon various actions, from aggressive braking or accelerating to engine cut-offs and hijacking threats.
  1. Geofencing Solutions
    Having a fleet management solution that allows for geofencing should be considered. With geofencing in place, fleet managers can track their drivers’ movements and support the planning of secure driving routes and avoiding high alert zones. This software can help keep drivers on track, manage their time more effectively and reduce the risk of hijackings.

There are many added benefits and features to integrating a comprehensive fleet management solution, that assists in the security of the fleet in transit and can be customised to suit your fleet requirements. Examples of these are: alerts for speed, direction, ignition status, fuel levels, temperature of cargo area, driver identification, hours worked, vehicle maintenance, driver behaviour, event reports and so much more.

Personal Safety Tips

  1. Be aware of your surroundings at all times and ensure there is open communication with your fleet manager or control room.
  2. Do not deviate from your planned route, if a route deviation is required, such as seeing a potential threat on the road, then notify the control room of the change.
  3. Keep your cab and cargo secure at stops and in transit. Make sure all doors are locked and secure to prevent stow aways or potential hijackers from gaining access to your vehicle at any time during transit.
  4. Do not make unscheduled stops, if you absolutely need to make an unscheduled stop, remain vigilant and notify your fleet manager or control room.
  5. Ensure your vehicle tracking system is operational and that your driver panic button is fully functional before travelling.
  6. Be cautious of vehicles that appear to be following you, notify your fleet manager or control room so that security measures can be activated.
  7. If in the event of a hijacking, be compliant and DO NOT resist as this could result in potential physical harm or, in some cases, fatalities.

Training and preparing your drivers will not only help them understand what actions needs to be taken in the event of a hijacking, but also how to identify possible hijacking risks before they happen. This includes the emotional and physical reactions to expect, what to do to stay alive and what to focus on to provide post-hijacking information, such as vehicle type, license plate, age, gender, height and so on.

Conclusion

Hijacking is becoming a cruel reality for fleet managers and drivers nationwide and the threat may continue to rise should the economic climate continue to decline. Therefore, fleet managers need to be aware of the threat of hijackings and the solutions that can help them mitigate the rising risks posed.

With Landmark tracking, we offer tailor-made fleet tracking and video monitoring solutions, which include armed response, vehicle recovery and access to a 24/7 control room. Whether you have a small, medium or large fleet, static or mobile, our goal is to ensure that you can monitor your fleet with ease any time and on any device; tailoring your reports and interfaces to manage your fleet more efficiently and effectively.

Protect your fleet and cargo on the road with a sophisticated fleet management solution today. Contact us on 011 728 4757 or email us at info@landmarktracking.co.za for more information regarding our fleet tracking and monitoring solutions.

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