The fact is organized cargo theft is on the rise and any conscientious, professional truck driver should constantly have it in the back of his or her mind.
As the internet changes the way commerce gets done, it also provides a new avenue by which thieves can find out where loads are, or which loads contain high-value merchandise. Both fleets and truck drivers alike need to be able to determine where loads are most vulnerable and ensure theft is avoided year-round.
How Bad Is It?
It’s hard to pin down an exact number regarding the value of stolen goods in cargo crimes because a varied number of incidents simply go unreported – whether for fear of rising insurance rates or bad publicity.
Still, the Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates cargo loss value at somewhere between $15 and $30 billion per year. No small number, indeed.
In 2015, the average loss per incident came in at just under $200,000. The numbers, compiled by a group that collects and organizes such data, recorded 10 thefts that rang in over $1 million in value. Through the first quarter of 2016, over 600 cargo-theft incidents were reported.
How Is It Changing?
Organized theft rings, whether they focus solely on cargo or not, are using increasingly-sophisticated tactics to nab large hauls and cause an overall rise in the nationwide average value per cargo theft incident.
Criminals are able to learn where partiuclar manufacturing and distribution hubs are and troll load boards to get information about shipments and locations. They use black market software to zero in on specific shipments at specific times. Coordination is key, and criminals are very good at it.
And unfortunately, their tactics are evolving. No longer are they just unloading a trailer, hitching up a truck and driving away with both tractor and trailer. Now they are dealing in strategic theft, which includes everything from identity theft to fictitious pickups and even vehicle decoys.
In a situation where identity theft occurs, a thief may secure and pick up the load simply by pretending to be the carrier. When a fictitious pickup occurs, a thief generally arrives ahead of the scheduled vehicle with virtually undetectable forged paperwork. They pick up the load and by the time the real truck arrives, the perpetrators are long gone.
Strategic cargo theft is rapidly outpacing traditional cargo theft as the go-to method for would-be cargo thieves. Still, it represents only around 15 percent of total cargo theft in the country.
Where’s It Riskiest?
Currently, the riskiest states for cargo theft are California, Texas, Florida, Georgia and New Jersey. During the first three quarters of 2016, California and Texas consider to remain the riskiest spots for cargo theft.
Year-over-year, California reported a 40-percent increase in cargo thefts in the third quarter of 2016. San Bernadino County alone saw a 229-percent increase, a truly staggering number.
Also consider the time that thieves are most likely to strike. According to the latest data, available from 2015, almost half of all cargo thefts happened sometime between Friday and Sunday. The most popular time? In the very early morning hours between 3:00am and 5:00am; essentially just before sunrise.
What Are They Taking?
Food and beverage remains far and above cargo thieves favorite target, at least in 2015. Over 24 percent of all cargo theft incidents fell under the food and beverage category. Nuts, soda, juice, tea and water topped the list.
Electronics and home-and-garden goods came in next, ringing in around 15 and 12 percent of thefts. Electronics are, by far, the costliest losses, but food and beverage remains the most attractive target because their low price point warrants less security measures, making them easier to steal.
So, no matter where you’re heading or what you’re hauling, always keep your cargo safety in mind. You simply never know who might be out there looking to get away with your load.