The holiday season is upon us. During this joyous time, consumers are doing more shopping, which means load volumes are increasing to meet those demands. Unfortunately, this also means that cargo theft is on the rise, as this crime tends to be even more prevalent during the holiday season. By most accounts, cargo theft is estimated to be a $15 to $30 billion problem in the U.S. each year. The FBI reports that less than 20 percent of stolen cargo is recovered.
To mitigate cargo theft, everyone involved in the supply chain process should be aware and prepared for possible situations that may arise.
Thieves target professional drivers
The most well-known form of cargo theft is when a thief or group of thieves target an individual driver and his or her truck and trailer. Certainly, technology advancements in GPS and RFID technology have transformed how transportation companies monitor individual shipments and how they respond when something goes wrong. The combination of physical security and technology is critical in deterring possible cargo thieves.
Therefore, even though technology can provide tracking assistance, professional drivers still need to be on alert for cargo thieves who are looking for an opportunity to steal. For a professional driver, the best defense is to deprive them of the chance. This is where the adage “cargo at rest is a risk” applies and good trip planning is critical. The more the load is kept moving, the safer that load is from thieves.
It is important for professional drivers to remember to plan your stops, so you can park in well-lit public areas and avoid leaving your loaded trailer unattended in an unsecured location. While stopped, do not share details about your load with people you do not know or where you could be overheard. Keep your eyes open for suspicious activity at any location occupied by trucks, including at the shipper and truck stops. Always check that your seal is still intact any time you do an inspection or walk around your truck. Also, make sure you follow any specific policies your company has about your current load, as those are often in place to help prevent theft. Finally, remember your safety as a professional driver always comes first. Alert your dispatcher of any suspicious activity. If you are being followed or sense that you’re in an unsafe situation, call 911.
Thieves target various products
It’s also important to not be lulled into a false sense of security simply because a load that is being hauled is not a “big ticket” item like pharmaceuticals or electronics. Thieves seem to be shifting their focus and expanding out the types of products and loads that they target.
One big trend is an increase in pilferage, where the thieves get into a trailer and go through the products looking for anything they can get out quickly and then easily fence the stolen items later. This frequently occurs with mixed retail loads that are going to a big box store. It also goes hand-in-hand with an increase in targeting LTL carriers and others who make multiple stops with a single load. Thieves may believe that these loads could be easier to access than a single load of high dollar items.
Another trend is an increase in the theft of food and beverage items. Depending on the item, these can be high value, can be resold by thieves to a variety of buyers and are nearly impossible to track after stolen.
Thieves also target companies
While many situations pertain to thieves taking advantage of an opportunity (a trailer left open and unattended or a trailer dropped in an unsecured location), some crimes are much more strategically targeted.
In some situations, thieves target shippers of highly desirable products and look for opportunities to steal specific loads from those shippers. Failing in that, thieves may follow trucks departing from these shippers to see if the truck stops a short distance away, like a nearby truck stop.
Thieves are also targeting 3PLs and brokerage operations. Thieves take advantage of the fact that most business is done electronically and so much information about transportation providers is available online, making it easier to pose as a legitimate company. This allows the thieves to simply drive into the shipper and have the load handed to them, a process referred to as fictitious pickup.
It is up to the companies to have strategies in place to combat these issues. Many shippers of high dollar items have policies in place that trucks leaving their facility should not make a planned stop within a certain number of miles once they depart. They may require teams on their loads to minimize how much time the truck is stopped. Also, a 3PL needs to have a thorough vetting process in place to bring in new carriers. They should also have a process in place to match loads, especially those of products thieves are known to target, with carriers they know and who have policies and procedures in place to help prevent theft.
Ultimately, awareness and preparedness are important to mitigate cargo theft. It takes the combined effort of the professional drivers hauling the freight as well as shippers and capacity representatives to combat the efforts of thieves.