It happens nearly three times a day and costs America billions of dollars a year, but it’s a crime you rarely hear about in the news. Cargo theft is so prevalent it affects nearly every industry and several major states. And if a trucker has a long enough career over the road, odds are he will face the theft of a valuable load.
Nationwide, it is estimated that nearly $35 billion is lost annually due to cargo theft. California reigns supreme as the state with the most reported thefts, followed by Texas, Florida, New Jersey, and Illinois.
Organized crime and money are behind the truck thefts. A typical thief lies in wait at a truck stop while a trucker goes in to clean up or grab a bite to eat. It takes 60 seconds or less, sometimes just 30, before the trucker returns to find his tractor or trailer gone. The thief will simply pull up to the trailer, unhitch it, attach it to his own, and drive away. Or the thief may slip inside the trailer and manually unload the cargo. About 85 percent of all recorded thefts targeted loaded trailers and containers that were stationary and left unattended in unsecured parking areas, such as truck stops, public parking, drop lots, and facility lots.
According to a report from CargoNet, food was the most commonly stolen item, followed by electronics, metals and clothing. The stolen merchandise is hidden in warehouses and then sold for profit.
An article on USNews pinpoints why cargo theft is so popular. “Right now, cargo theft is a low-risk, high-reward proposition because the crime carries minor criminal penalties. Steal a half-million dollars-worth of cargo and a criminal might get six months in jail, according to various law enforcement agencies. Compare that to ten years in prison if a thief gets caught with a half million dollars-worth of cocaine,” Stephen Stock writes.
Here are some tips to prevent cargo theft (or minimize risk):
1. Be on alert in high-risk areas. Don’t leave your cab unlocked or unattended in California, for example. If you have to leave your truck, make sure it’s locked and in a well-lit area in sight of the entrance.
2. Back up your unattended trailer to a wall or dock to prevent someone from getting in.
3. Apply a KingPin lock to your trailer. These locks prevent the theft of dropped-off trailers and unauthorized coupling. These locks, most importantly, are indestructible.
4. Respond immediately. Many cargo thefts go unreported. Call law enforcement as soon as you note any suspicious activity, strange behavior, or missing items from your inventory.
5. Know your supply chain partners. Always ask for proof of identity. Verify the identity of your supply chain partners, such as the carrier and driver scheduled to pick up your cargo before a load is released, and monitor the movement of your goods.
6. Ensure alarm systems are functioning properly. Always test your alarms and have a safety plan ready to go if you suspect theft has occurred.
Do you have tips to prevent cargo theft? Has this ever happened to you? Leave your comments and stories below!