Cargo Theft: A Real Problem

By Nick Erdmann | May 30, 2012

Cargo theft impacts nearly every industry, from paper products to televisions. Experts estimate that cargo and equipment theft costs $30 to 50 billion annually worldwide.

By its very nature, the transportation and air cargo industries place goods in a more vulnerable environment than when they are at a shipper’s or receiver’s facility.

Although there are some trends in what type of commodities are stolen, theft affects nearly every type of product from toilet paper to pharmaceuticals. Cargo categories affected include:

  • Food and food products
  • Consumer electronics
  • Metals
  • Apparel (including footwear and accessories)
  • Pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter medicine
  • Computers and related equipment
  • Wine, spirits & beer
  • Building materials
  • Appliances
  • Tires
  • Cellular phones
  • Auto parts
Cargo Theft Trends

Some of the traditional days and times of losses occur during the weekend, though holiday weekends also tend to result in a higher rate of theft due to facilities going “dark” for a longer period with limited personnel.

In addition, geography impacts theft trends. The thirteen most prominent states, accounting for 80 percent of losses are:

  • California
  • Florida
  • Canada
  • Texas
  • Georgia
  • Tennessee
  • New Jersey
  • Pennsylvania
  • Ohio
  • Maryland
  • Arkansas
  • Illinois
  • New York

The typical modus operandi of most cargo thefts occur when the truck and cargo are stopped in an unsecured location. A good rule is a “freight at rest is a freight at risk”.

Typical areas for these types of theft include truck stops, unsecured drop yards and restaurant/shopping center parking lots. Terminals and distribution center yards are becoming a popular target as well, illustrating an increased need for security within these areas.

All stakeholders that bear the burden of cargo should be involved in the security process, since they all share in the monetary loss should a load go missing.

Shippers need to take care in selecting their transportation partners. Shippers should also consider the implications of supply chain/logistics decisions. Requesting specific delivery times narrows the options available to the trucking company and the driver. If a local shipment is required to arrive at a specific destination early in the morning, this may well cause a driver to pick up the load the previous day in order to make the narrow appointment window.

Law Enforcement

It is important for companies to familiarize themselves with local and national law enforcement agencies. Taking the time to meet these agencies, specifically the personnel involved with investigating cargo theft, is important for product recovery.

There are several task forces located throughout the country, including Illinois, Georgia, Florida, California, Memphis and Texas that specifically focus on cargo theft crimes. Networking with these agencies is important because they receive information on stolen loads daily and can provide assistance in locating stolen loads if reported in a timely fashion.

Knowing that cargo theft is a real issue in the supply chain is the first step; combating the problem with security solutions, intelligence, law enforcement involvement and analytics is the next.

By Nick Erdmann of Transport Security, Inc. / ENFORCER, a provider to the transportation and supply chain high security solutions including trailer security locks, truck security solutions, embedded covert GPS package tracking and C-TPAT security seals. With over 30 years of experience in the security industry, Transport Security, Inc. offers the complete solution companies demand for their security needs.

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