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Apr 18, 2024

Understanding and Combating Cargo Theft in the US

Understanding and Combating Cargo Theft in the US

2023 was a year that saw a skyrocket in cargo theft across the United States, with a 59% increase in the third quarter of 2023 as compared to 2022. As we continue to witness this surge, cargo theft continues to pose a significant threat to the logistics and transportation industry.

As cargo is being stolen at an alarming rate and is forecasted to get worse in 2024, it is important for truck drivers, brokers, and carriers alike to take precautionary measures against cargo theft. Let’s take a look at what cargo theft entails, the different ways it occurs, and some proactive measures to secure freight.

What is Cargo Theft?

Cargo theft, which refers to the act of stealing goods being transported by trucks, rail, or other means, can occur in a variety of ways. The stolen cargo can range from a variety of goods, although research has shown that the top targeted commodities are food and beverage and electronics.

Ways Cargo Can Be Stolen:

1. Hijacking and Forced Entry

One of the most dangerous forms of cargo theft involves hijacking, where criminals force drivers to stop their trucks and surrender their cargo. This can occur on secluded stretches of highways or during scheduled stops. When cargo is hijacked, the drivers are often forced to open trailers and hand over the goods.

2. Break-ins During Driver Absence

Unlike hijacking operations, cargo theft might not always be a high-stakes operation. Sometimes, thieves may opt for a less confrontational approach by breaking into trailers when drivers are away. This can happen during scheduled breaks or when trucks are parked overnight and unsuspecting drivers return to find their cargo missing.

3. Trailer Theft

Some thieves go a step further by stealing the entire trailer and using their own trucks for a quick getaway. This method not only results in the financial loss of goods but also the significant setback of losing an entire trailer. Full trailer theft is becoming more common amidst heightened security measures. Now, stolen trailers are sometimes abandoned after the trailer has been unlocked and the cargo has been unloaded.

4. Fake Trucking Companies and Load Board Scams

As on-the-road security has been increasing, criminals have become increasingly sophisticated by establishing fake trucking companies and engaging in misdirection fraud. These thieves secure legitimate-looking contracts and loads, only to disappear with the cargo, leaving both companies and carriers in the lurch. An increase in this form of fraud has emphasized the need for enhanced verification and due diligence in the freight industry.

Tips to Secure Freight

1. Cargo Insurance

With a greater increase in the inherent risks associated with cargo transportation, many shippers are turning to spot cargo insurance. This type of insurance provides coverage for specific shipments on the spot on an ad-hoc basis, offering financial protection against losses resulting from theft, damage, or other unforeseen events. With cargo insurance, drivers now have a valuable financial safety net and this can also offer them some peace of mind when delivering goods.

2. Invest in Advanced Security Systems

There has also been a massive move towards enhancing cargo security. This is largely through modern security practices, such as asset tracking through GPS technology, geofencing, and real-time monitoring. These technologies allow shippers and carriers to keep a vigilant eye on their shipments and respond promptly to any deviations from the planned route or recover stolen goods promptly.

3. Strategic Route Planning

Lastly, planning routes strategically can minimize exposure to high-risk areas prone to cargo theft. Especially now with the increased use of artificial intelligence (AI),there are route optimization tools that can help identify safer and more secure paths, avoiding regions with a history of criminal activity.

As the freight industry in the US tackles the escalating challenge of cargo theft, there needs to be a more proactive and collaborative approach to mitigating cargo theft risks and safeguarding the logistics industry.

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