How To Reduce Cart Theft

These stolen carts were recently found at a Texas scrap metal yard that was busted for cart theft.

At the end of the growing season, greenhouses are empty. Benches are bare. The huge stacks of empty containers waiting to be filled have dwindled down to just a few. Growers are usually relieved to find most of their inventory gone. But anxiety can build about the thousands of shipping carts that growers lose in a single season because of theft.

Most theft occurs when carts left at retail during the selling season simply disappear. With the higher prices recyclers pay for scrap metals, metal rolling carts have become easy pickings for thieves who want quick cash.
Growers, cart rental companies and cart manufacturers have implemented some programs to cut down on these thefts that directly affect your bottom line.

Big Grower Takes Precautions

Metrolina Greenhouses in Huntersville, N.C., has experienced its share of cart losses. Manager Michael Van Wingerden estimates that the company loses 750 to 1,000 carts a year to theft. This number may seem unbelievable, but Metrolina owns at least 40,000 carts. The cost is not insignificant, and the company has started several programs to stop theft.

One of the first steps implemented was adding a yellow warning sticker to each cart that plainly states, “Theft, removal or possession of this rack by unauthorized persons or companies will result in criminal prosecution.” The sticker has Metrolina’s phone number so anyone calling with information leading to prosecution can get a cash reward.

Although the sticker program has yielded some positive results, Van Wingerden began another prevention step at the beginning of this growing season. In addition to the stickers, Metrolina employees now also rivet the shipping carts together at the base and the top with ¼-inch aluminum rivets. “We riveted them together so you can’t take them apart,” Van Wingerden says. At 350 pounds, a riveted cart can no longer be easily thrown into the back of a pickup truck by thieves, VanWingerden says. This has been the best deterrent so far, Van Wingerden says.

Advice From The Rental Companies

Two of the largest cart rental companies in the United States offer some advice to growers who want to cut down on cart theft at retail locations.

• Encourage cooperation. Retailer cooperation is also very important, according to Container Centralen. A safe storage area and vigilant retail staff can be a major deterrent to cart theft.

• Check in with retailers. If EZ Shipper Racks sees that a store is experiencing a large number of lost carts, its customer service department will call the store to find out what happened and if the store knows who the last supplier was who dropped off carts.

• Don’t leave carts in stores. “As soon as you leave products in the retail store, there’s a chance you are going to lose your racks,” Salmanson says. “The safest avenue is to drop your products off and take your racks back.” The problem is that retailers, especially in the spring, are looking for an extra place to merchandise, especially vertically, and will often use the carts for that purpose.

• Start a driver ID program. Drivers working on behalf of Container Centralen each receive an ID card that confirms their authority to pick up CC equipment. This helps harried retailers know they are releasing carts to the correct people.

• Set up a reward program. Container Centralen set up an Equipment Protection Program in 2010 that includes a reward system for actionable information about unauthorized use of its equipment.

The riveting has cut down on cart theft so far this season, but thieves are now stealing just the shelves, which are much cheaper to replace than the entire cart. Van Wingerden is looking at options to make the shelves less appealing to thieves.

Other Ideas In The Works

One idea still in the planning stages at Metrolina is providing retailers with a storage container in which to house the empty carts until the greenhouse can pick them up. One concern is that it might be too hard to convince retailers to put the unit on their property, Van Wingerden says. Van Wingerden looked at attaching RFID and GPS trackers to every cart. “But at $15 to $20 a cart, it’s just too much money,” he says.

Metrolina is also looking at sending out “disposable” pallet carts for the last deliveries to retailers. Retailers can throw these away instead of returning them to Metrolina.

Cart Manufacturers Aid Growers

Doug White, president of Wellmaster Carts (Division of Wellmaster Pipe and Supply Inc.) in Tillsonburg, Ontario, Canada, has seen an increase in reported cart shelf thefts. “In the past, theft of a grower’s cart was the serious problem – and now the focus has somewhat shifted to stealing a grower’s cart shelves,” White says.

White believes that salvagers target the greenhouse industry because the cart’s steel shelves can be removed and sold to scrap yards for quick cash. To combat this problem, Wellmaster is researching different ways to construct cart shelves. Shelf possibilities include inserts made from materials other than metal, such as plastic, wood or composites. White predicts this may deter thieves, since scrap dealers want pure metal, not a mixture of components.

“It is a benefit to all of us to make carts as safe and economical as we can,” White says. He also recommends that growers keep close tabs on carts wherever they are. “Knowing where the growers’ carts are located and quickly retrieving them may cut down on the number of missing carts,” he says.

Cart Rental Companies Track Units

Cart loss isn’t just a problem for growers. Cart rental companies are also experiencing theft.

When carts are lost or reported missing, EZ Shipper Racks does not pass the cost onto the growers in the program. “Once a grower has notified that he’s shipped racks to a store, it’s our responsibility to recover them if they go missing,” says Jeff Salmanson, managing partner of EZ Shipper Racks, located in Southern California. “We have to be very vigilant on our programs in recovering racks.”

Container Centralen USA, another large cart rental company, uses RFID technology combined with bar-code scanning to track and control usage and shipment of its carts. EZ Shipper Racks uses an RTS (Rack Tracking System) to electronically track carts. The RTS logs how many racks are shipped to each store and when. The carts themselves do not have tracking devices, so the carts have to be scanned in at each store.

Theft Happens. Everywhere.

Growers, manufacturers and cart rental companies all point out that cart theft happens everywhere. It’s not isolated to any one part of the country, so every grower who owns carts is at risk.

“[Cart theft] is a costly problem across the country,” says White. He recommends keeping diligent track of carts wherever they are used. Container Centralen USA has also noted that incidence of cart theft is varying widely across the country.

The Northeast has traditionally had high loss rates, but during 2012, Container Centralen noted increased reports of cart theft in Texas and in the Chicago market.

“The last two years, [cart theft] has seemed to have gotten worse and worse,” says Salmanson. “We do hear occasional horror stories where growers have lost 10-15 percent of their racks,” he says.

To help with the issue, EZ Shipper Racks sent out flyers with pictures to Texas scrap yards warning them not to accept its racks for scrap.

The key is to be vigilant, no matter where you are in the country.

Leave a Reply

More From Equipment...

March 4, 2015

Nexus Corporation’s Cheryl Longtin Encourages Women To Seek Volunteer Leadership Opportunities

When Cheryl Longtin came to the horticulture business in 1994, she applied her experience in the automotive industry to promote the adoption of more technology in greenhouse production. Longtin says horticulture, with its rich family tradition, has long promoted women in the industry compared to other industries, but women in horticulture must continue to seek out opportunities to provide volunteer leadership in organizations that shape the future of the business.

Read More

March 4, 2015

Second Annual GreenhouseConnect Will Bring Growers and Suppliers Together in San Diego This October

Following a successful inaugural event in Tampa last fall, Greenhouse Grower has announced the dates of its second annual GreenhouseConnect: October 26-29, 2015. Representatives of an expected two dozen leading greenhouse operations from across the U.S. will join senior-level suppliers at Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego for several days of one-on-one strategic meetings, a growers-only roundtable, informational sessions and a variety of networking events.

Read More
cultivate'15 logo

March 4, 2015

Cultivate’15: AmericanHort Announces What’s New

In an industry that has seen major changes occurring at a fast pace, many industry professionals leave Cultivate with their heads spinning and no clear idea of how to regroup and strategize. Cultivate’15 is “Changing the Game.” As this year’s focus, Changing the Game will call your attention to the ways in which our industry has changed and your opportunities to compete successfully.

Read More
Latest Stories
Outfitting Your Greenhouse

February 24, 2015

Save Energy With The Right Greenhouse Glazing

The glazing you choose can make a big difference in your energy bill and the uniformity of your crops.

Read More
Michigan State University Extension

February 24, 2015

Ethylene From Defective Greenhouse Heaters Damages Crop…

Malfunctioning greenhouse heaters can lead to crop damage from ethylene and carbon monoxide induced illness for workers. Michigan State University's Extension educators Tom Dudek and Randy Beaudry teach you how to recognize the symptoms and check greenhouse heaters to avoid the concern.

Read More
Havest Automation Robot

February 18, 2015

Robots Grab Hold Of Growers’ Material Handling Needs

Harvest Automation’s HV-100 robots automate one of the hardest, most labor-intensive jobs at growing operations – plant spacing. With more technology coming, investing in robots could become even more realistic for growers of all sizes.

Read More

February 1, 2015

4 Lighting Products For Your Operation

These new lighting products have been developed for maximum energy efficiency in greenhouse production. Check out the slideshow to see which products are right for your operation.

Read More
LumiGrow

January 30, 2015

LumiGrow Expands Customer Base In 2014

LumiGrow, Inc. is adding more than 125 new commercial, governmental and research customers to its roster of customers, and beyond the new accounts added this year, many existing customers significantly increased the number of LumiGrow products they use and research customers made LumiGrow a part of their efforts to add to the body of knowledge about spectral science.

Read More
harvest automation featured image

January 13, 2015

Harvest Automation Extends Robot Rental Program

Harvest Automation's robot rental program proved to be such a success for the company that it is being extended through the spring. The program was unveiled last year as a way for customers to get started with HV-100 robots.

Read More

January 9, 2015

Innovations In Irrigation

Need help improving your irrigation? Check out these new products.

Read More

December 2, 2014

Hanna Instruments, Inc. Introduces pH Electrode With Bl…

Hanna Instruments recently released HALO, a professional pH probe with Bluetooth Smart (Bluetooth 4.0) technology that transmits measurement data directly to an Apple iPad running the Hanna Lab App.

Read More

November 24, 2014

Biomass Six Years Later: Would Pleasant View Do It Agai…

Pleasant View gardens installed its first biomass boiler six years ago and has added a second one since. Now it’s reaping the benefits of lower heating costs and dollars saved.

Read More

November 18, 2014

7 New Media And Light Products For Greenhouse Productio…

New media and light products cover a broad sweep of growing conditions.

Read More

October 21, 2014

GreenClocks New Generation City Farm Fitted With Philip…

Osaka Prefectural University’s new city farm, which has been fitted out with Philips LEDs, opened September 19.

Read More

October 1, 2014

Harvest Automation Introduces Robot Rental Program

Harvest Automation has unveiled a new introductory robot rental program as a way for customers to get started with HV-100 robots.

Read More

September 15, 2014

Precision Horticulture: What Piece Of Equipment Or Syst…

Let us know what product you can't live without.

Read More

September 15, 2014

New Products For Precision Growing

Increase efficiency with these new offerings in equipment, automation, structures and software.

Read More

August 12, 2014

LEDs Comparable To High Pressure Sodium Lamps For Cutti…

In his Cultivate'14 presentation on lighting the future of young plants with LEDs, Christopher Currey, Iowa State University, shared recent research on how LED lights stack up against high pressure sodium lamps for liner and plug production.

Read More

July 29, 2014

Bench-Top Root Zone Heating: Can You Reduce Air Tempera…

This is the second article in a two-part series featuring research from Purdue University that focuses on energy-efficient production strategies for annual bedding plants.

Read More

June 27, 2014

4 New Products For Cooling, Shading And Ventilation

The Vertex by Poly-Tex The Vertex is the newest member of the Greenhouse Megastore’s shade structure family. Make a statement and show your colors with this simple, stylish shade house.The easy-snap button frame and bungee-shade attachments will provide  shade in no time. With  more than 7 feet of sidewall clearance and 13 feet to the peak, the Vertex will give shade while keeping that open-air feeling.  

Read More

May 27, 2014

Philips Hosts High Wire Event For The First Time

Philips recently organized the International High Wire Event for the first time. The event was held in the Netherlands for a select group of international tomato growers, and included practical visits and opportunities for exchanging know-how and experience.

Read More