Preventing Cargo Theft

Cargo theft can occur anywhere and it happens more frequently on weekends, especially long holiday weekends.

You don’t have to be a sitting duck, though; there are steps you can take to help ensure you are not a victim of cargo theft. Outlined below, we explain where thieves typically strike and how you can avoid their traps.

When cargo theft happens, it’s usually in one of two ways: the entire trailer and its contents are stolen, or the trailer is broken into and only the contents are taken. In some situations, however, a thief will drive off with the tractor and trailer!

After hours at carrier terminals and truck stops are the heaviest hit locations. If you plan to park a trailer at your terminal, backing it against a wall is always a good idea. Make sure the area is well-lit, install cameras, fence off this area and make sure it is locked. If you regularly leave freight at your terminals, especially with targeted or high-value products, hiring after-hours security personnel is a good idea. When parking at a truck stop you have less control over the security, so park in a well-lit area and back the trailer doors against a wall or something that will prevent the doors from being opened (not a chain-link fence, as they can easily be cut).

Drivers that pick up high-value and/or targeted freight should be especially watchful and careful during and immediately after loading. Theft rings target shippers with these types of product and have been known to follow trucks after they leave a shipper. As soon as the driver stops to fuel, rest, etc., they are at serious risk of having their load stolen if they have been followed by cargo thieves. It is wise to fuel up before picking up your shipment and driving at least 250 miles before stopping. Most thieves will not follow a truck for this distance. This might seem like an inconvenience to the driver, but it’s a simple, proactive step a driver can take to ensure a lot less headache down the road. Theft rings do not necessarily need to follow a truck, either; if they know where a particular load is going, they can assume the route, and will likely have operations set up at specific truck stops along the way. Always be aware of your surroundings - a great message for life in general, but it certainly applies in preventing cargo theft. And, there are, of course, more heavily targeted truck stops across the US, just as there are more heavily targeted states. Drivers should be extra vigilant while in CA, FL, NJ, TX, GA and IL, as these states have the most reported cargo thefts.

Concealed tracking devices on products and on trailers can increase chances of locating stolen shipments. Also, consider geofencing those tracking devices. After determining the route each truck intends to take, create a geo-fence around it. You will be alerted should a tracking device move outside the established route which is helpful in a situation where the driver may be inside the truck stop, sleeping or otherwise not aware that the shipment has been stolen, or not able to notify anyone.

Be sure to lock tractors and trailers with the latest high-security locking devices.

If you notice suspicious activity, report it to authorities and alert drivers in the area. If you are a victim of cargo theft, report it immediately. Be sure to have an accurate description of your equipment along with up-to-date license plate numbers and VINs which will aid authorities in recovering your equipment, and hopefully the freight as well.

Shippers should be careful not to allow excessive transit time on targeted or high-value loads. For example, if a shipping lane is 1,000 miles, that’s a 2-day point on a single driver. If you can avoid it, try not to ship that distance on a Friday for a Monday delivery appointment. It adds an extra day based on transit, and means the load will sit for approximately 24 hours longer than needed. And, in this example, the sitting time would be over a weekend when more thefts occur. Unattended loads are the easiest targets for cargo thieves, especially if they are not in a secured area. When possible, running shipments straight through, and opting for a team when neccesary, brings sitting time on a load to the lowest possible level, thereby decreasing opportunities for theft.

The most desirable commodities for cargo thieves are items that can be easily sold on the black market. The list includes: food and beverages, clothing, electronics, housewares, metals, pharmaceuticals, cigarettes and alcohol.

Cargo theft rings have become highly sophisticated operations, and all parties involved in a shipment need to be on alert and aware of potential dangers and points of vulnerability in order to ensure the safe transport of goods.