A Growing Threat: The Increase of Cargo Theft

February 13, 2024

In recent years, the freight industry has been grappling with a significant rise in cargo theft incidents, presenting new challenges for brokers, carriers, and shippers alike. According to CargoNet, there were 692 cargo theft events across the United States and Canada in the third quarter of 2023, marking a staggering 59% increase compared to the same period in 2022. This spike in thefts has prompted the industry to reassess its approach to security and risk management.

Traditionally, cargo theft was often committed by individuals with insider knowledge, making it relatively easier to identify and apprehend the culprits. However, cargo theft has transformed over the years. With the advent of cyber fraud and sophisticated identity theft tactics, the landscape has shifted dramatically.

“In recent years, cyber fraud is on the rise and cargo theft methods have changed,” says Kathy Schricker, VP, Northeast Region at Avalon Risk Management. “The industry is seeing a lot of identity thefts and fraudulent pickups, and carriers and brokers are having their identities compromised.”

Another element in the rise of organized theft is the relatively new phenomenon of retail crime rings, which operate with a level of professionalism that far surpasses traditional shoplifting. These criminal networks have expanded their operations to include cargo theft, targeting entire truckloads of goods with precision.

“Retail theft is a profession for a lot of these criminals. It’s not like shoplifting out of need or a kid stealing a pair of sunglasses,” says Elizabeth Robinson, Senior VP of the North Carolina Retail merchants Association. “These rings steal hundreds of thousands of dollars at a time, and cargo theft has risen as one of the latest mechanisms they’re using as they try to steal larger amounts of goods.”

Modern cargo theft is a new frontier for organized crime rings. For insights into this troubling trend from leading industry experts, watch the latest episode of the Stay In Your Lane Podcast.

To combat this growing threat, legislative measures have been enacted to impose harsher penalties on perpetrators of cargo theft. In North Carolina, for instance, legislation has been passed to increase penalties for thefts exceeding $100,000, aligning with efforts to combat organized retail crime.

Law enforcement agencies, such as the California Highway Patrol, play a crucial role in investigating and recovering stolen cargo, with dedicated officers in cargo theft taskforces playing a major role in the recovery of stolen goods and collaborating with industry stakeholders to address the issue.

In spite of law enforcement efforts, challenges for transport stakeholders in the face of organized theft remain daunting. Proactive measures, such as thorough vetting of carriers and heightened security protocols, can help mitigate the risk of theft.

“We’ve taken steps to partner with our carriers and shippers to make sure that when folks show up to get a load, it’s actually the folks who are supposed to collect that load,” says Nutrabolt Director of Logistics Operations Jon Pruitt, whose company has faced losses from cargo theft.

Additionally, brokers, carriers, and shippers must carefully review their insurance coverage and adopt comprehensive risk management strategies. With the evolving nature of cargo theft, staying vigilant and proactive is essential to safeguarding valuable freight.

“Brokers should review their insurance programs more carefully to ensure coverage for this evolving type of theft,” warns Schricker. “We suggest that this not just be done at renewal time. Take the time now and have your insurance broker help you navigate the process.”

Cargo theft is an ever-evolving threat, and collaborative efforts are required to combat it effectively. By staying informed, implementing robust security measures, and fostering partnerships between industry stakeholders and law enforcement, the freight industry can better protect its assets and maintain the integrity of supply chains.

As cargo theft continues to evolve, adaptability and collaboration will remain key pillars in the fight against this pervasive threat. Triple T Transport and its partners are committed to staying ahead of the curve and protecting the interests of our clients in an ever-changing freight landscape. Contact us today to learn more about the steps we take to safeguard the cargo in our care.

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