Friday, September 19, 2008

Bienvenido a Miami

Major cargo theft from commercial trucks in the United States is on pace to double this past year’s estimated $1.2 billion haul.

A bad economy and relatively low risk, high reward means criminals are stealing more from commercial trucks than ever before.

I was in Miami this week, interviewing members of the Tactical Operations Multi-Agency Cargo Anti-Theft Squad, also known as TOMCATS. Housed in the Miami-Dade Police Department, TOMCATS has snagged $50 million in stolen cargo this year already, and agency officials say truckers can do their part to make themselves a less likely target.

The two most important things drivers can do, they say, is to never leave a truck while it’s idling and to park only in well-lit, safe areas.

Of course, they understand some of the challenges long-haulers face in finding good parking, particularly related to meeting hours-of-service requirements while often making drops and pickups in dangerous or partially secluded areas.

Look for more about my ride-along in the November edition of Land Line Magazine.

Miami is a major trucking hub, with cargo containers being imported and exported through the Atlantic and scores of warehouses in the Miami-Dade County area.

Looks like this group has got plenty of job security.

Tuesday was my first day in Miami, and I walked the city for a few miles to soak in some first impressions. First off, Miami can’t be summed up in a sentence. It’s heavy on tourism and international flavor (my first five minutes off the plane I bumped into people speaking French, I believe German, and a host of Spanish and Caribbean varieties.

The weather is nice and warm at night, and extremely humid and hot during the day.

The people can be friendly, but the city also shows some grit. A bus driver chided me for having a wadded-up bus exchange receipt. Apparently he thought I was trying to get out of the $1.50 fare.

My polo shirt, khaki shorts and cheap sandals definitely didn’t fit in on the South Beach scene, and I can honestly say Tuesday was the first time I ever felt underdressed at a CVS drugstore.

But, on the whole, it was a good trip.

Maybe not quite this good, though.