As Freight on Trucks Becomes More Valuable, Thieves Get Creative in Their Attempts to Steal It

As Freight on Trucks Becomes More Valuable, Thieves Get Creative in Their Attempts to Steal It

Parked trailerCargo theft is an ever-evolving threat for motor carriers. (Getty Images)

Virtually every commercial big-rig truck rolling down the highway these days is carrying goods that can represent hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more than a million. For cargo thieves, those are inviting targets that are easy to attack, and in many cases the products can quickly be turned into cash on the black market.

It’s an ever-evolving threat to motor carriers. Keeping cargo safe means defending against not only traditional methods but recognizing and overcoming emerging new tactics and techniques increasingly employed by the bad guys. These can include social engineering, “spoofing” technologies, identity theft, fictitious pickups using bogus shipping documents in which thieves impersonate legitimate drivers and companies, and criminals doing covert, organized site surveillance and intelligence gathering to plan a heist.

Scott Cornell

Scott Cornell leads the transportation business at Travelers Insurance and helped create its cargo theft investigation unit. (Travelers Insurance)

“There are some things about cargo theft that haven’t changed that much over the years,” said Scott Cornell, who as crime and theft specialist at Travelers Insurance leads the company’s transportation business and helped create its cargo theft investigation unit in 2005. Yet there have been significant changes, he said, including targeted commodities, technology-enabled cargo theft and criminals organizing into more sophisticated and dangerous groups.

It’s enough to keep fleet safety and security managers up at night. However, the most effective defense against cargo theft is an educated, alert and aware driver. And that’s where fleets continue to spend time, effort and money to support drivers, keep them safe and their loads out of harm’s way.

According to Sensitech’s second-quarter 2018 U.S. and Canada cargo theft analysis, 157 cargo thefts were reported in the period, slightly down from 2017. The average cargo value per theft event was $186,779 for a total of $29.3 million in losses. The thefts involved 342 stolen vehicles, including 120 semi-tractors and 155 semi-trailers. The most targeted goods: food, building supplies, household goods such as appliances, and electronics, including computers and televisions.

Major over-the-road fleets engage drivers in formal training and education programs for safety, cargo security and theft prevention.

Anti-theft tips

Every driver with CFI undergoes orientation that stresses personal safety as well as cargo and equipment security, said Jeff Messer, security and safety analyst at the Joplin, Mo.-based truckload carrier, which has 2,000 drivers.

The company communicates regular updates to drivers on cargo theft trends, prevention techniques, “hot spots” for theft to steer clear of or be extra vigilant about when dropping or picking up a load, as well as law enforcement bulletins and other safety-and-loss-prevention intelligence.

Messer’s prevention tips for drivers: Always be aware and attentive to your […]

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