There’s no doubt that cargo theft is an international problem affecting both businesses and consumers, but it isn’t a new problem. In fact, cargo theft has been around for centuries – mostly through the form of pirates plundering ships and seizing loot, bandits robbing stagecoaches on horseback, and thieves staking out trading roads and raiding unsuspecting merchants.
Just as society has evolved from those early plundering days, so have the criminals. Since the breakout of organized crime syndicates in the early 20th century, crime has become considerably more organized and sophisticated. There will always be some lone wolves out there, but bands of street thugs who execute smash-and-grab jobs out of desperation aren’t really on the FBI’s radar. Cargo theft is a $15-$30 billion a year problem in the U.S., and it’s safe to assume that numbers of this magnitude are the result of organized criminals identifying lucrative opportunities, utilizing creativity, and executing their heists quickly and efficiently.
What exactly is being stolen?
Some reports would suggest anything and everything. But, in terms of ranking, food and beverage takes the lead, accounting for 20% of all cargo theft in North America. Why? Because cashews don’t have serial numbers, and tomatoes seldom have RFID tags hidden in their packaging. In addition to this, there’s a time-sensitive window for recovery with food, where the “evidence” usually gets consumed quickly. The same can’t be said about computers and flat-screen televisions, so stealing food tends to be a lower risk venture. Also on the list of most frequently stolen goods, home and garden supplies at 14%, industrial supplies at 13%, auto and parts at 11%, clothing and shoes at 10%, and electronics at 8%.
Where exactly is this happening?
California is notorious for cargo theft and takes the lead at 22% percent. Texas is second at 15%, followed by Florida at 13%, New Jersey at 12%, and Georgia at 7%.
What can be done?
The good news is there are ways to minimize the risk of falling victim to cargo theft. Here are five tips that will help you keep the thieves at bay.
5. How you park can make a difference.
It’s true that cargo thieves are clever, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be. Using your surroundings when you back up to park, whether a building, other trailers, or even fences can make breaking into your cargo close to impossible. If you’re visiting a truck stop, make sure it’s one with heavier traffic. Avoid parking in darker lots and look for well-lit areas. If you can see security cameras, try your best to park your vehicle in their field of view.
4. Make sure you’re not being followed.
Drivers have been more likely to be targeted and followed in recent years, so it’s important that you pay attention to your surroundings. If you think there’s a chance that you’re being followed, try slowing down to see if the vehicle will pass you. You can also switch lanes to see whether the car behind you does the same. If you’re still being followed, take the next exit and try to park in a safe spot. If you are still convinced you are being followed, call your fleet for help.
3. Take time and location into consideration.
Cargo theft is a significant problem, but only in a number of states. Also, instances occur much more frequently during holidays and on weekends (especially Saturdays). Be extra cautious during these times and in specific locations. Remember, 85% of all recorded robberies within the past few years occurred while trucks were stationary and in unsecured parking lots. In the majority of these cases, trucks were left unattended.
2. Know who you’re working with.
Do your due diligence when choosing your partners. There’s a slew of fraudulent companies out there that specialize in internal theft, so implementing a vigorous qualification process can be a useful precaution. A background check wouldn’t hurt for the sake of verification.
1. Don’t neglect the old-school tools.
As simple as it sounds, professional-grade padlocks can make a big difference. These locks are generally an inexpensive, low-tech alternative to comprehensive security programs. Bolted door hardware and frames also work, as well as horizontal pins for your rear-trailer bolster for extra reinforcement.