Cargo Theft on the Rise, Growing More Sophisticated

CARGO THEFT is on the rise and criminals are using new techniques to dupe their targets, forcing fleet managers and trucking firms i to double down on prevention efforts.

The Major Theft Unit in the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division estimates that cargo theft costs U.S. businesses up to $30 billion a year. Such estimates may not present an accurate scope of the problem because businesses are often reluctant to report thefts out of concern for their reputations, or because they fear insurance premiums will increase.

Thieves are focusing on more valuable cargo and full truckloads.

Gangs are also using stolen IDs and fabricated carrier identities to impersonate trucking firms or cargo brokers to get suppliers to unwittingly part with their products.

Additionally, to thwart any tracking devices on stolen trucks, the thieves will sometimes move the stolen loot to another truck.

Reducing the risk

Although the gangs are going high-tech, there are steps fleet managers can take to reduce the risk:

  • Fence the entire physical premises of lots to make entry difficult. There should also be closed-circuit cameras, alarm systems, and guards who monitor the surveillance cameras.
  • Place high-security locks on trailer doors and air-brake lines. Since it’s common for thieves to steal an entire load of a trailer, also install kingpin locks, especially in operations that drop trailers for any period.
  • Use lockable load space covers to keep would-be thieves from seeing inside. They also keep tools and cargo strapped down and secure.
  • Use GPS systems and other technology to track trucks and cargo.
  • Check the driving records and criminal backgrounds of all new drivers as part of your pre-employment screening process.
  • Work with your insurer to identify routes with a lowered possibility of cargo theft.
  • Require drivers to drive at least four hours before their first rest stop. If a thief is following them, they may lose interest and turn back.
  • Ask drivers to notify their dispatcher prior to stopping. After they pull over, they should shut off their engine and lock the vehicle after exiting.
  • Develop reciprocal agreements with clients to allow your drivers to park loaded trucks at their facilities while en route. You can also establish this kind of agreement with other trucking companies.

Park in a well-lit area such as a gated parking lot or garage that is monitored by security. Report thefts to the local authorities.

Place bills of lading in a secure location and designate a single person to control their distribution to the drivers. Bills of lading reveal details about what a truck is hauling. If a driver is working in collaboration with thieves, he can look at a bill of lading and tell thieves what cargo is being shipped, when it is due to leave, and the number of the trailer in which it will be packed.

The takeaway

Cargo theft may be a reality in the trucking industry, but you don’t have to assume that it is an inevitable cost of doing business.

You can reduce your vulnerability if you follow these commonsense precautions to make thieves work harder to steal your valuable freight.