Cargo Theft: 9 Ways to Combat It
The risk of cargo theft never goes away. Neither does our resolve to fight it.
A few years ago, a team of brazen thieves in south Florida made off with $340,000 in merchandise from a national retailer. They also took the semi-trailer that was transporting the goods.
The crooks made it all the way from Fort Myers to Miami before police caught up with them. An emergency ping to the trailer’s GPS device located it, and authorities arrived as the thieves were unloading their haul of clothes and jewelry. Police arrested eight people and charged them with grand theft cargo.
Trailer tracking technology is sophisticated enough to detect not only the location of the equipment but also when a trailer door is open. A tracking system has a “memory” and can trace the physical location of a trailer from point A to point B and all the waypoints in between.
In the case of the stolen goods in Florida, trailer tracking prevented that valuable inventory from vanishing. The technology has become an essential tool to combat cargo theft. Incidents like this aren’t uncommon, so shippers and carriers are forced to stay vigilant.
Countermeasures Reduce the Risk of Cargo Theft
BSI (British Standards Institute) finds that countermeasures significantly reduce the risk of theft.
They give the example of a pharmaceutical company that shipped $16 billion worth of product in the U.S. The company had invested about $825,000 on security countermeasures—that amounted to $20,000 for every $1 billion of product (an expense of only .005% of the cargo’s value). The countermeasures included active monitoring, team drivers, driver credential checklists, and passive radio frequency ID.
The result: the company’s loss forecast fell to about $350,000. Had they NOT implemented those countermeasures, they forecast their potential loss to be nearly $6 million annually!
What Can You Do to Prevent Cargo Theft?
What are some easy steps shippers and carriers can take to prevent cargo theft?
To start, evaluate your risk of theft. Do your routes include high-risk roads and highways? Are your pick-up or drop-off points in high-risk cities? Those are red flags.
Second, use discipline in how you apply safety tactics like these:
- Vet your employees.
- Provide training about cargo theft methods and keep vigilance high.
- Make sure bills of lading are secure.
- Use high security locks.
- Use trailer tracking on your own fleet as well as on rented/leased equipment.
- Be particularly careful in parking lots and rest stops.
- Map out routes with lower likelihood of theft when possible.
- Drive at least four hours before stopping. (Thieves are patient only up to a point.)
- Apply security tactics by risk, not only by value of the cargo.
You may also want to conduct regular assessments to make sure your theft mitigation tactics are working. Then, if you find areas of vulnerability, you can take corrective action as soon as possible. According to BSI, it’s definitely worth the investment.
Here are some links to more information:
Cargo Theft Links
- Industry responds to heightened cargo theft from FleetOwner
- CargoNet 2023 supply chain risks
- “Cargo theft volume increased, average loss value dropped in 2019" from CCJ
- “Six steps to thwart cargo theft” from Heavy Duty Trucking
- "Cargo theft: Snapshot and 4 strategies to avoid it" from Fleet Owner
- FDA notices of food and medical thefts
- “Cargo theft: the threat continues”
- From BSI: what are your risk factors?
- Cargo theft report for 2022 from BSI and TT Club
Trailer Tracking Links