Home » What You Need to Do About Cargo Theft on the Rise

What You Need to Do About Cargo Theft on the Rise

Posted by Mark Artis on Apr 5, 2023

The supply chain disruption continues to wreak havoc and lead to a rising number of cargo thefts. The shocker is the total loss value of cargo theft was worth $223 million in 2022! CargoNet reports it has recorded 1,778 supply chain risk events across the U.S. and Canada in 2022. This is up by 15% from 2021. The top targeted location types were warehouses, distribution centers, and parking lots.

Almost half of the cargo thefts took place in California, Texas, and Florida. Even if your business isn’t in these three states, you have a good reason to be concerned about it. For example, Georgia saw theft climb by 34% year-over-year. So, while your state may not be in the three hotspots, it could be experiencing a surge in cargo theft. The two biggest challenges regarding cargo theft are increased fictitious pickups and organized crime rings.

Growing Number of Fictitious Pickups

One of the bigger concerns is the upswing of fictitious cargo pickups. CargoNet says there was a 600% increase year-over-year in fictitious pickups. Here’s how it works. A thief pretends to be a representative from a known freight company. They negotiate with the brokers for a price for the load. They’ll pick up the load only to never be heard from again.

The broker will learn the items were not delivered. They’ll call the trucking company who will confirm that it was not them. Here is CargoNet’s advice for dealing with fictitious pickups also known as strategic theft and it includes identity theft and double brokering scams.

“This style of fictitious cargo pickup relies heavily on subcontracting the shipment to a legitimate motor carrier and having the shipment misdirected to another address.”

Overhaul Intelligence and Response Manager Danny Ramon tells FleetOwner there’s an uptick in pilferages. This is when cargo is taken from the trailer rather than the theft of the entire trailer. Ramon also confirms thefts involving fraudulent or stolen carrier or driving identities is growing.

Organized Crime Rings

It turns out that nine out of 10 cargo thefts have been committed by an organized crime ring. They have the power and resources to pull off these sophisticated thefts. FreightWaves quotes Travelers transportation lead and crime and theft specialist Scott Cornell, who explains these crime rings surveil a truck or shipments outside warehouses or distribution centers.

Unfortunately, crime rings and the black market have the upper hand in responding to market demand faster than the supply chain can.

“These criminals can react, turn on a dime, react to market trends very quickly,” Ramon says. “Anything that has retail purchasing restrictions is going to be big. Anything that’s bearing a bigger brunt of inflation or product shortages, for whatever reason, whether that’s because of flooding in California or avian flu, anything causing things to go up and desirability to go up in price because there’s a shortage is definitely going to be targeted.”

4 Top Ways to Help Prevent Cargo Theft

Implementing layered security is the most effective way to help prevent cargo theft. You also need to factor in people because they can make a mistake that opens the door to theft. Here are four top ways to help prevent cargo theft.

1. Document and follow processes and procedures

One way to help prevent fictitious pickups is by having processes and procedures. These would include items like verifying any bids on the shipment with the motor carrier. Use the contact information on file with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and confirm the motor carrier and driver match the information on the shipment. Better yet, contact your customers and partners for confirmation.

Motor carriers need to beware of new customers who try to pay through a peer-to-peer money transfer app. Another clue is if they would take a shipment to an address that is different from a bill of lading.

It also helps to require the motor carrier to share information with the company at least 24 hours before pick-up. This information should include the name of the driver and the carrier, the truck number, and insurance information. If you don’t have one already, consider investing in a system for tracking shipments. This system may have the capability to keep a list of approved truck drivers.

You may have processes for managing cargo. However, it doesn’t mean that all employees follow them. Therefore, doing random spot checks and self-audits are important. Employees should also receive regular training on security protocols. They need training on processes and security protocols on at least an annual basis. Also, require background checks on all new employees and drivers.

The processes should contain something about not allowing trailers to sit overnight filled with cargo. Better yet, don’t pack the trailer until right before the trailer’s departure. Avoid releasing the load to the driver before you’ve taken a photo of the driver, truck, and bill of lading.

Crime rings will keep watch over distribution centers and warehouses. Once the drivers obtain their load and drive away, the crime ring follows the truck. They’re looking for them to stop somewhere for food, gas, or a break. That’s why the recommendation is for truck drivers to travel at least 200 miles before making a stop. Crime gangs typically follow a truck for 150 miles.

2. Use smart locks, sensors, GPS trackers, and seals

You can put up a barrier and add another layer of security by using different sensors, GPS trackers, and smart locks. These are getting cheaper, smaller, and harder to find. You might look into air cuff locks and high-security rear door locks. These lock the dashboard brake valves to prevent the unauthorized movement of the truck and trailer.

Look for light sensors that can report small changes in the ambient lighting. This can indicate someone opened the truck doors. There are temperature sensors that monitor for temperature changes. These, too, can provide a hint the cargo may have been taken. Some sensors have the ability to alert dispatchers who can contact the truck driver to investigate the problem.

Organized crime rings and brazen thieves have the tools to make replicas of security devices using a 3D printer. In just a few minutes, they can duplicate an ISO 17712 high-security cargo seal and lock. They replace the original seals with the copies they made, so it looks like the cargo was never broken into. Consider randomizing the color of the seals to lower the risk of the thieves having a match.

Every time drivers step away and return, they need to check the seals and locks to ensure they’re still intact. Some criminals want to steal specific items, so avoid identifying what the cargo or tractor-trailer has.

3. Add an access control system

You can automate the truck driver check-in and verification process with an access control system that integrates video surveillance technology. Access control is more effective when it’s integrated with remote video surveillance.

An access control system adds another layer of security that allows you to stay on top of the truck’s movement from entry to exit. The system can manage building entry including who has access to limited-access rooms.

4. Add video surveillance with remote monitoring

Humans are going to make mistakes. A good way around that is with remote video surveillance. Unlike traditional security solutions that are reactive, remote video surveillance takes a proactive approach to security and helps deter crime. Video surveillance can identify gaps and lapses in security.

You can level up video security by searching for systems that use video analytics and human intelligence. Video analytics studies all the cameras for thousands of scenarios. As soon as it finds a possible match, it alerts the monitoring operator —located away from the business — who responds as needed for the situation. They might use an on-site speaker to issue a verbal warning, contact the police, or both.

Sometimes the police don’t arrive in time before the thieves get away with the cargo. Fortunately, there are security cameras that can capture identifying information. With cameras posted everywhere recording and retaining all the footage, video analysts can search to pull up the crime scene and share it with the authorities.

Remote video surveillance can do more than stop cargo theft. There can be innocent-looking scenarios that don’t get caught. For example, someone falls, and that person may try to make a liability claim saying the company was liable for their injury. Then, the analysts can search for the footage and send the recording to the company. It’s very hard to win liability claims without proof. Video helps with that.

In another scenario, let’s say a company’s fleet truck hit another vehicle during the daytime. No one on the property witnessed it. However, cameras caught and recorded it. They captured all the information about the incident including the driver’s face, fleet number, and license plate.

The advantage of video surveillance with monitoring is that it can yield a return on investment within months. It can help reduce cargo theft and liability. To learn more about stopping cargo theft with security cameras and remote monitoring remote, check out the guide to Remote Video Surveillance: More Than Just Catching Criminals. For a customized security plan that maximizes your ROI, contact us.

Texas Private Security License Number: B14187.